Five Minutes Five Issues: Africa Deployments, 2016 Executions, Maine Marijuana, Less Prisoners, Vermont Pardons
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The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity welcomes you to Five Minutes Five Issues.
Starting in five four three two one.
Hello, I am Adam Dick, a Ron Paul Institute senior fellow.
Where will the United States military find its next huge quagmire? How about Africa?
Nick Turse provided last week at The Intercept some perspective on the great increase in US Special Operations forces involvement in Africa over the last ten years. Turse writes:
In 2006, just 1 percent of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26 percent of all U.S. Special Operations forces — Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them — deployed abroad were sent to Africa, according to data supplied to The Intercept by U.S. Special Operations Command. That total ranks second only to the Greater Middle East where the U.S. is waging war against enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.Issue two.
The Death Penalty Information Center relates in its 2016 year-end report that less prisoners were executed in America in 2016 than in any year since 1991. In 2016, 20 prisoners were executed in America. The executions took place in five states.
In last week’s Five Minutes Five Issues I talked about how legislators quickly passed and Governor Charlie Baker signed into law legislation overriding some of the marijuana legalization ballot measure that Massachusetts voters passed in November. A result is delaying by six months the opening of stores legally selling marijuana in the state.
Now, a similar move may be afoot in Maine to thwart that state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure that also passed in November. Steve Mistler reports at Maine Public Radio that Governor Paul LePage wants to delay the start of legal marijuana sales in Maine until after the nine-month time period defined in the ballot measure and that Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau is calling for a one year moratorium on marijuana sales.
While America retains a very high incarceration rate, there have been some reductions in recent years. Relying on information released last week by the US government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, Timothy Williams reports at the New York Times that about 1.5 million people were inmates in US and state prisons at the end of 2015 — the lowest number since 2005. For the larger category of adults in prison or jail or on probation or parole the number jumps to about 6.7 million — the lowest number since 2002.
To help explain the declining incarceration rate, Williams points to “the federal prison system releasing thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in 2015 and states seeking to save money by enacting legislation and policies to reduce prison populations.”
In the December 16 episode of Five Minutes Five Issues I talked about Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin inviting people with Vermont convictions for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to request he pardon them. On Tuesday — two days before the end of his term as governor — Shumlin, who had received over 450 requests, issued 192 pardons for marijuana offenses.
Shumlin issued the pardons to extend some of the benefit of Vermont’s 2013 decriminalization of possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to some people convicted under the previous law. Similarly, President Barack Obama has granted commutations in some instances to shorten sentences of people who have been subjected to drug law sentences much longer than the sentences that would be expected if their cases had moved through the judicial system more recently.
If state legislatures and the US Congress do not act to ensure that new shortened sentences or the elimination of sentences are retroactively applied to people convicted under older sentencing standards, then such individuals are left with pardons or commutations as their hope for early release.
That’s a wrap.
Transcripts of Five Minutes Five Issues episodes, including links to related information, are at the Ron Paul Institute blog.
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