A new Human Rights Watch report accuses Cambodian drug detention centers of unlawfully detaining hundreds of people while subjecting them to forced labor, sexual violence and beatings. The organization conducted 33 interviews with people held at the eight drug detention centers throughout the country. Some of the interviewees reported being treated “like animals,” punished with exercises designed to cause mental and physical pain, and being beaten when they refused to work for free at the center or on construction sites.
“The only ‘treatment’ people in Cambodia’s drug detention centers receive is being beaten, bruised, and forced to work,” said Joseph Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The government uses these centers as dumping grounds for beggars, sex workers, street children, and other ‘undesirables,’ often in advance of high-profile visits by foreign dignitaries.”
Some of those interviewed said children as young as six-years-old were held in the drug detention centers, as well as subjected to the same forced labor and beatings. “Undesirable” people who are not addicted to drugs, including people with disabilities, beggars, and sex workers, have also been confined to the facilities--for months in some cases.
Human Rights Watch issued a similar report in 2010 about the compulsory drug dependency “treatment” centers across the country, leading to public condemnation from the U.N. about the abusive treatment that detained people received. They are now urging Cambodia to close all of its drug detention centers due to human rights violations and allow everyone in them to be released; a similar call to action was made in a March 2012 joint statement by 12 United Nations agencies, who urged all countries with drug detention centers to close them immediately. Cambodian authorities have not publicly responded to either call.
New statistics show that Massachusetts has the lowest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the country, but that there's still work to be done in the Bay State. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that after Massachusetts decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2009, weed arrests dropped to 18 for every 100,000 citizens the following year. That amount is six times fewer than Hawaii, the next lowest state on the list. However, the reported statistics came before marijuana was made legal in Colorado and Washington.
Although police in Massachusetts are not making pot busts a high priority, there is still racial disparity when it comes to those who are arrested. Despite similar use rates, the ACLU reports that black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. Meanwhile, Massachusetts' own figures show that African-Americans are 3.9 times more likely than whites to be busted for pot, while African-Americans in Plymouth and Barnstable counties are 11 times more likely to be arrested.
“We still today arrest 1.6 million people a year for non-violent drug offenses, and we imprison as many as we can — and then we have to pay for it,” said retired State Police Lt. Jack Cole, a co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization with offices in Medford. “Imagine what we could do with that money.”
However, Massachusetts has no plans to join Colorado and Washington in making marijuana legal, something which even local decriminalization groups believe is the right strategy, due to a possible increase in health care costs and addiction. “We're coming from a youth prevention perspective,” said Jody Hensley, a coordinator with Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The march to legalization ... is really changing behaviors (in youth). That's our concern.”
According to researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the number of instances of people smoking and drinking on the big screen has dropped since 1985, with tobacco use in movies taking a drastic plunge.
The study, which will be published in the January 2014 issue of Pediatrics, focused on 390 popular movies released between 1985-2010 with the goal of comparing instances of sex, violence, and alcohol and tobacco use in PG-13 movies to R-rated films. And while the silver screen staples of sex and violence remained static during that period, alcohol use in movies dropped from 89.6 percent to 67.3 percent and tobacco use fell from 68 percent to 21.4 percent. But despite the decline, researchers remained concerned about how alcohol and tobacco use were being portrayed regardless of the rating. “We know that some teenagers imitate what they see on-screen,” said Amy Bleakley, lead author of the study and senior researcher at Annenberg. “What concerns us is that movies aimed at younger viewers are making a connection between violence and a variety of risky behaviors – sex, drinking and smoking.”
Daniel Romer, a director at the Annenberg Center, expressed equal concern over how adolescents might mimic what they see on screen. "We know that some adolescents will initiate alcohol use, some adolescents will initiate tobacco use and some adolescents will initiate sex," based on what they see, he said. But while the report called into question Hollywood’s ratings system, the Motion Picture Association of America defended it. "The purpose of the rating system is to reflect the standards of American parents, not set them – the rating board tries to rate a film the way they believe a majority of American parents would rate it,” said Kate Bedingfield, spokesperson for the MPAA. “Societal standards change over time and the rating system is built to change."
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, some 10,141 children were removed from their birth homes in 2012, with roughly 59% of those children taken away because their parents were abusing drugs or alcohol.
With a sharp increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse over the last five years, Arizona’s Child Protective Service has concurrently seen the rise in the number of children entering the system, including babies that have tested positive for drugs. “There’s more of a focus on keeping track of parents with babies that are born with substance abuse,” said Jinny Ludwig, executive director of the Northern Arizona Office of Ameripsych, a privately held provider of foster and adoption service. “More immediate action is being taken.”
In fact, some places have seen a rise of 50 percent in the number of babies entering their facilities who are testing positive for drugs. “CPS does have a visible presence here because we have so many high-risk babies with challenging family situations,” said Dr. Alan Bedrick, chief of neonatology at the University of Arizona Medical Center. “We’ll have babies ready for discharge, and we are not able to send them home because Child Protective Services has not been able to find placement.”
Overall, there has been a spike in children being put into Arizona’s CPS, and more than 15,300 kids are currently in foster care. While the national numbers show an 18 percent decrease from 2007 to 2012, in Arizona the number of children entering foster care skyrocketed by 48 percent and deep cuts to state services have been to blame. “The state Legislature is the real culprit here,” says Eric Schindler, president and CEO of Child and Family Resources in Tucson. “The choices they have made, the cuts they’ve made, have real-world consequences.”
- Love at First Blast: Woman Falls for Man Who Shot Her While on Drugs [Gawker]
- Oxycontin Tops List of Most Abused Prescription Drugs [Philly.com]
- British Accountant Embezzled Thousands to Fuel Gambling Addiction [Leamington Observer]
- Breaking News: State of New York Approved Medical Marijuana 33 Years Ago [New York Post]
- Former Day Care Provider Convicted of Distributing Crack Cocaine [Lawrence Journal-World]
- South Africa Warns Journalists Covering Mandela Funeral: Don't Get Drunk [Huffington Post]
- Nurofen Plus Labels to Warn Consumers About Addiction [The Age]
- Lamar Odom Cops a Plea Deal in DUI Case [TMZ]
It should come as a surprise to no one that Kirstie Alley was a cocaine addict in her early days as an actress. To be sure, Alley has been less-than-shy about her history with the drug. But what has been missing all these years was how, exactly, she became addicted in the first place.
But last week in a sit down with radio host Howard Stern to promote her new TV Land show, Kirstie, Alley revealed the circumstances of her life that led her to try cocaine. “I didn’t do drugs until I was 25,” she said. “I got a divorce from my husband, and I started hanging out with this guy I was sort of madly in love with. He had already done all of his drugs, but he had a lot of druggie friends.” Her fall from sobriety to addict was fast. "I had heard that cocaine made you peppy and happy and I was sort of depressed because I had gotten a divorce and wrecked everybody’s lives. So I thought, 'I’m gonna try this,'" she recalled. "I took one snort of cocaine, and I go, 'Oh my God! I’m gonna do this every day for the rest of my life!'"
Alley knew that her life was in tatters and sought help though Scientology’s rehab program, Narconon, which she has steadfastly credited with curbing her addiction. “I had a total awareness that I was dead as a being. I could just feel that I had smashed my own life force with drugs,” Alley said.