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Gary Johnson, War on Drugs Hypocrite

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Gary Johnson may talk about how much he loves to smoke marijuana, and there’s no doubt that’s true. But that hardly means Johnson is in any way progressive in the War on Drugs, unless you consider a racialized exception for white people to smoke pot progressive. Because that’s about where Johnson has always been. I lived in New Mexico for the last two years of the Johnson administration. To say the least, he is the dumbest man I have ever seen in such an office, and that includes George W. Bush. But on the point, he’s always been horrible on prison issues. This post links to an Albuquerque Journal article from 1999:

‘Johnson acknowledged that some of his recent statements, including his belief that people shouldn’t be jailed for using drugs, appear to contradict his otherwise hardline stance on crime. During his 1998 re-election campaign, Johnson aired a tough-sounding television commercial in which he said if you commit a crime in New Mexico, you’re going to serve “every lousy second” of your prison sentence. “When I made that commercial, I’m thinking about the guy who’s got his gun out,” Johnson said. “I was never thinking about the guy who did heroin and that’s all he did. I wasn’t thinking about Robert Downey Jr.,” Johnson said, referring to the actor recently sent to prison on drug charges. [Italics mine—M.A.] Johnson said he would veto bills that required additional state spending for new drug-treatment programs because it could result in tax increases. Despite his belief that people should not be sent to jail for using drugs, Johnson said he does not intend to issue any blanket pardons for those serving time in New Mexico jails on drug charges.’

The scary guys. Not the rich heroin addicts. The scary guys.

Moreover, Gary Johnson himself instigated a prison riot by blaming inmates for the problems at a private prison run by his Wackenhut friends in Hobbs. He basically dared the inmates to riot. They did.

New Mexico State legislators in and near Hobbs, N.M., indicated that a statement made last week by Gov. Gary Johnson likely pushed inmates to the point of riot Tuesday night in Santa Rosa.

“I can’t believe it didn’t happen the next night,” state Sen. Billy McKibben, R-Hobbs, said. “I think what we’re seeing here is a direct result of irresponsible management.”

Johnson, a Republican, told reporters at a press conference last week he may be forced to remove state inmates from private Wackenhut Corrections Corp. prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa if the violence continues at current pace.

The governor made a similar remark Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

But state Corrections Secretary Rob Perry placed responsibility on the inmates involved.

“I think it’s time all of us … start holding these inmates accountable for this violence,” Perry told The Associated Press. “Because a little man from the moon isn’t coming down and killing other inmates and killing correctional officers. This is inmate conduct. It’s criminal conduct and it’s violent conduct.”

Officials have long said that inmates tend to prefer state facilities over private ones because of the extras offered at state penitentiaries.

Perry also said the political fight over prisons has probably increased tensions behind bars.

“There’s clearly a motive out there for these inmates who don’t want to be at these facilities because they don’t have the niceties that they’ve been accustomed to,” he told The AP. “And it’s a challenge on their part to capitalize on the attention that has been drawn to this issue.”

But New Mexico state Rep. Stevan Pearce, R-Hobbs, on Wednesday agreed with McKibben.

“For (Johnson) to make the public statement like that, it’s like waving a red flag in front of the system,” Pearce said. “I think it put pressure on a system that already is dealing with problems.

“I think it’s, ‘Hey, all we’ve got to do is cause one more disturbance and we get a new cell.’ ”

McKibben added that Johnson who did push for private prisons during his last term hasn’t been vocal on the issue recently until last week.

“That’s the first time we’ve heard anything from him on the prison situation,” he said. “It was almost a veiled invitation (for violence).”

Pearce and McKibben said the corrections department is partly to blame, as well, and McKibben, the state’s senior-most senator, called for legislative action.

“We’ve got a disaster on our hands here, and all (Johnson) can say is ‘The inmates are responsible,’ ” McKibben said. “It’s disgusting.

Wackenhut itself was responsible for the riot because of the horrible conditions in the prison. But then that’s the model that Gary Johnson wanted when he became a bought man of the prison industry in the first place.

Wackenhut faced withering criticism immediately following the riot. Corrections Secretary Perry and Public Safety Dept. Secretary Darren White accused the company of waiting at least an hour before informing state officials of the riot and Garcia’s death. They also said Wackenhut failed to notify the State Police and misled a state trooper who contacted the prison while the uprising was in progress, which led to a delay in sending response teams to the facility.

White called for an investigation into whether Wackenhut was criminally negligent in delaying reports of the riot. “I can tell you from my own standpoint I want to determine if the recent actions indicate a pattern and practice by Wackenhut which places public relations over public safety,” said White. “If we determine that this reluctance to notify law enforcement was part of a corporate policy, then someone could be exposed to criminal charges.” White warned that he could go “to the top of the corporate ladder.” He noted there had been a four-hour delay before Wackenhut reported the August 22 beating death of Orlando Gabaldon.

State lawmakers also condemned the company, questioning whether inadequate employee training and under-staffing had contributed to the riot. In state facilities the staff-to-prisoner ratio is 1:3, while at the Wackenhut prisons the ratio is 1:5. Also, it was later determined that Garcia, the slain prison guard, who had been on the job less than six months, was not fully certified as required under Wackenhut’s contract.

“All I can say is that we are really in an emergency situation and that the profit motive behind-privatization has surfaced and we are feeling its effect,” stated New Mexico House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. Wackenhut’s stock dropped $3.00 a share — 16 percent -the day after the August 31 riot.

A closed legislative hearing concerning the riot was held the same day as Wackenhut’s press conference. Dept. of Public Safety Secretary White departed early, saying Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon, who chaired the hearing, had a “blatant conflict of interest” because he is a paid consultant for Wackenhut. “It’s as ridiculous as the State Dept. holding a briefing on the Gulf War and having the Iraqis at the table,” White said of Aragon’s participation in the hearing.

Sen. Aragon, who strongly opposed prison privatization before being hired by Wackenhut in 1998, denied a conflict of interest, though he declined to say how much he was paid by the company and state disclosure laws do not require him to do so. Attorney General Patricia Madrid rejected a request by the chairman of the state Republican Party to investigate Aragon’s close relationship with Wackenhut.

Besides hiring Sen. Aragon as a consultant, Wackenhut employs former New Mexico corrections secretary Eloy Mondragon as warden of the Santa Rosa prison. Also, Wackenhut and corporate officers have donated $9,000 to Gov. Johnson’s election campaign and $5,000 to the state Republican Party. Four months before the Santa Rosa uprising, in April 1999, Gov. Johnson vetoed legislation that would have increased the state’s control over private prisons.

Gary Johnson, the clear progressive choice!

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