ENDORSING A FUTURES SEARCH CONFERENCE RE THE WAR ON DRUGS

WHEREAS, since at least 1980, our federal, state and local governments have supported law enforcement in the fight against drugs by adopting policies that in recent years have been characterized as a war on drugs;

WHEREAS, these policies have included the enactment of Pennsylvania sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines intended to dramatically increase the period of incarceration served and fines paid by defendants convicted of possessing and selling drugs;[1]

WHEREAS, the policies of the war on drugs have resulted in federal, state and local governments spending approximately $100 billion on law enforcement during the four year period, from 1988 to 1992;[2]

WHEREAS, the policies of the war on drugs have resulted in our Nation's prison population doubling since 1980;[3]

WHEREAS, the policies of the war on drugs have resulted in over 700 individuals being indicted for federal narcotics-related offenses by the Office of the United States Attorney in Philadelphia during the three-year period, from 1988 through 1991;[4]

WHEREAS, as a result of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines which became effective on November 1, 1987, the percentage of federal prisoners incarcerated on narcotics charges almost doubled during the seven-year period, from 34% in 1985 to 60% in 1992;[5]

WHEREAS, a recent study prepared and released by the United States Department of Justice concludes, inter alia, that the increase in length of sentences received by low-level federal drug law violators as a result of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines has not had an impact on the violators' likelihood of re-offending, and that shorter prison terms are just as likely to deter violators from future offending as longer prison terms;[6]

WHEREAS, a recent American Bar Association study prepared under a project of the Association's Criminal Justice Section reported that [w]hile national measurements of drug use appear to show a downward trend over the past few years, drug arrests increased by 25% between 1986 and 1991 . . . [and] the number of persons imprisoned for drug offenses increased 327% or 13 times the percentage increase in such arrests"[7]

WHEREAS, [t]his country is at a crossroads in deciding how to respond to crime . . . [and] it is now timely to assess the successes and failures of past policies and strategies and to think about the possible need for new directions;[8]

WHEREAS, WHYY, the Fellowship Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild (the Coalition) have come together in Philadelphia in search of cosponsors interested in helping to organize a series of conferences, televised programs and events intended to focus broad public attention on the efficacy of the current war on drugs, its impact on our society, and the possibility of alternative solutions;

WHEREAS, the Coalition intends to utilize the existing model of the Future Search Conference to bring together between 60 and 70 stakeholders representing the broadest spectrum of interests and opinions on this subject in a three-day conference to explore the problems created by the narcotics trade and the war on drugs, seek a common ground and identify common goals;

WHEREAS, WHYY would first videotape a smaller one-day conference of approximately 12 stakeholders and use the material thus obtained, plus other interviews and street footage, to produce a one-hour program and a series of public interest announcements on this topic to be aired in advance of the larger three-day conference;

WHEREAS, the three-day conference would be followed up by an open and televised town meeting that would further explore the issues, goals and suggestions identified by the participants in the Future Search Conference;

WHEREAS, the Coalition anticipates that the costs of the Future Search Conference, including the costs of WHYY's production, will be approximately $350,000;

WHEREAS, the successful organizing of this proposed series of events depends entirely upon the ability of the Coalition to obtain funding from interested foundations that need to underwrite the significant production costs anticipated by WHYY, and on the Coalition's ability to identify and recruit a broad array of stakeholders who are representative of the different interests and viewpoints with regard to these issues; and

WHEREAS, the Coalition does not seek funding from the Philadelphia Bar Association or the Philadelphia Bar Foundation but, rather, believes that co-sponsorship by the Bar Association will substantially assist in fund-raising efforts;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association proclaims its support of this initiative and its willingness to join as a sponsor with the Coalition and other interested organizations in an effort to organize the above-mentioned events;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association may take such other measures as s/he deems appropriate to assist the Coalition, including the appointment of a Bar Association member to serve as a liaison and representative.


1. See 18 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 6314, 7508 (effective July 1, 1988); Federal Sentencing Guidelines §2D1.1 et seq. (effective November 1, 1987).

2. Baum, The War on Drugs, 12 Years Later, vol. 79, March 1993 ABA Journal, at 70.

3. Id. at 71.

4. 1991 Report from the United States Attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania To the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee.

5. DeBenedictis, "How Long Is Too Long?", vol. 79, October 1993 ABA Journal, at 77.

6. "U. S. Department of Justice: An Analysis of Non-Violent Drug Offenders with Minimal Criminal Histories," vol. 54, no. 19 Criminal Law Reporter (February 16, 1994), at 2102-05.

7. The State of Criminal Justice: An Annual Report, American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section (February, 1993), at ii (emphasis omitted).

8.  Id. at i.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 26, 1994