This is just plain idiotic, inefficient and ineffective, and a fantastic waste of YOUR tax money.
I have long said that most elderly, ill, “lowest of the low risk” inmates should be released! Here we see (and I have seen many such examples, like Delaware’s POPS program) politicians passing a law which sounds good – looks like they are addressing the problem – which does not work!
Excerpts from the Article:
Twenty-four hours a day for 10 weeks, inmates in maroon uniforms with “D.O.C.” stamped on the backs held a death vigil over Frank Rodriguez. His colon cancer was terminal, but he refused to die — not behind the barbed wire and bars of Graterford Prison. Like most states, Pennsylvania has a compassionate-release law, a way out for dying inmates. Rodriguez, who was so weak he needed help eating, bathing, and turning on his side, qualified. But successful petitions are exceedingly rare and excruciatingly slow.
Rodriguez had not committed a violent crime. He was locked up on a parole violation — smoking marijuana — for the underlying offense of stealing a $1 lemonade from a 7-Eleven store in 2013.
Yet to be allowed to die outside prison, he’d need a raft of forms and records, a judge’s approval and — though he was too weak to walk — an electronic monitor on his ankle. His sister Miriam said he finally came home Aug. 25. He died Aug. 27. After this two-month struggle, when we got him into hospice, he was a 57-year-old skeleton,” she said. “All we had was a day and a half of him before he passed. We could have had months of him if not for all this paperwork.”
She’ll never forget the dark comedy of the hospice staff struggling to find a pair of scissors that could slice off the monitor that hung loose from his bony ankle. Nothing worked. “Our family was devastated. Let him die with dignity,” she said. “They let the morgue pick him up with that still on him.”
Even as Pennsylvania has incrementally reduced its prison population, the number of elderly inmates has grown at a startling rate. In 2001, there were 1,892 geriatric inmates, age 55 or older. Today, there are 6,458 of them.
They’re typically people serving very long sentences for a single, very serious crime, noted Rutgers University criminologist Todd Clear. (“This is a particularly American problem,” he noted. “The U.S. has a kind of world monopoly on extremely long sentences.”)
“They are among the lowest-risk people in the prison,” he said.
They’re also wildly expensive to house, even compared to Pennsylvania’s average per-inmate cost of $42,727 a year. Researchers estimate caring for an elderly inmate costs three to nine times more than housing a younger prisoner.
The law’s language, he noted, is extremely restrictive: Applicants must be near death and unable to walk. Since January 2015, 483 inmates have died in state prison; 343 of them 55 or older. Few bother seeking compassionate release. In the last two years, only 24 people have applied, and about six were approved.
Her brother finally came home in an ambulance, with his skin worn through at his tailbone. He spent his last day alive surrounded by his family.
Still, Arifaj said, “at least he did get out. There are people who never get that day.”
GOP and Democratic lawmakers grill Tennessee officials, blast private prisons over scathing audit – They are a Disaster!
It is not surprising that we see so many articles now about private prisons. They were a disaster from the start, and the Obama administration (it sure didn’t take a rocket scientist to see they were a disaster!) was terminating them, when Trump came in and revived them! Why did Trump do that? Because he doesn’t know or care about government efficiency, and knows even less about justice or fairness. The private prison companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign donations … and it worked! 🙁
Now we see all of these stories recounting the horrors of private prisons! The same horrors which got them nearly banned until Trump intervened.
CoreCivic — previously known as Corrections Corporation of America – is the largest and the WORST private prison company. They changed their name to try to avoid the stigma they had earned, but that’s all they changed!
Excerpts from the Articles:
In a rare procedural rebuke, state lawmakers delayed reauthorizing the Tennessee Department of Correction amid concerns highlighted in a recently released audit of the state’s largest, privately run prison. Wednesday’s move shows the frustration and concern of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers about the issues raised in the scathing audit concerning Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, operated by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.
”Sometimes when you’re in the wrong, you have to take it like a jackass in a hail storm…Department of Correction, you’ve failed in a lot of areas. It’s egregious to the people of Tennessee, to the taxpayers and to the people that are there in the prisons,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, calling for “serious change” in the coming months. “This is a prime example why, constitutionally, the government is responsible to carry out justice…This is proof of what I’ve been saying for years: There’s a problem with a for-profit prison.”
Typically, departments are authorized for four years. In theory, not reauthorizing the department would mean at some point in the future the $1 billion department would be dissolved.
Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker and officials from CoreCivic — previously known as Corrections Corporation of America — did not dispute the bulk of the findings. While Parker said the prison and department have improved operations since the facility opened in January 2016, he acknowledged the problems found in the audit are serious.
“If you have a critical post that is not filled…yes, it could jeopardize the security and safety of the facility,” Parker said.
Parker vowed to increase audits at the CoreCivic prison, but he and other department officials demurred on questions about whether CoreCivic had violated the terms of its five-year, $276 million contract at the Trousdale facility.
Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, said he’s not advocating to end the contract but the state needs to recognize there is a problem.
“It appears that we have non-performance of a contract,” said Roberts, adding he wants to ensure inmates aren’t punished excessively at Trousdale compared to other facilities.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, questioned how CoreCivic could “neglect” what he considered a simple task: providing accurate information to auditors.
While Parker said CoreCivic tried to provide information after auditors visited the prison, an auditor said the comptroller can’t trust the veracity of such documents provided after the fact.
This was a no brainer. I predicted that the prison would not get away with this policy; it clearly was unconstitutional and they would never withstand a legal challenge. Do you know WHY prisons try to adopt such policies? They do it to try to limit communication with the outside world as much as possible, so that the stories of all the abuse and neglect (medical neglect) will not get out.
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal judge given the final go-ahead to a settlement in the lawsuit filed against the Wilson County sheriff over his jail’s policy of allowing inmates to receive and send only postcards in the mail. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson approved the agreement and consent decree Friday allowing inmates to send and receive letters in envelopes at the southeast Kansas jail. The deal also requires the sheriff to pay $10,000 in litigation costs.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Social Justice Law Collective sued Sheriff Pete Figgins last year alleging the post card policy violated the free speech and due process rights of prisoners and the people who write to them.
Jail officials can still restrict correspondence that poses a safety threat or encourages criminal activity. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
They can only help; Cameras don’t lie. READ Release the Video! – Transparency – Police Shootings – Now with a Letter to Editor for YOU to Send!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Detroit Police Department will have body cameras at all precincts by the end of this year. Along with the roll out, there have been a reduction in officer complaints. From August of 2016 to August of 2017, officer complaints dropped seven percent. Where did they see the biggest reduction? The two precincts where the body cameras were rolled out. So let’s flip the camera and show you what the camera sees.
“I’m placing it on the camera mount,” said one officer. “I’m activating my camera.” Cameras are not just moving on bodies – but also mounted inside the squad cars showing multiple angles. And all the cameras are connected and talk to each other.
“Our system is a watch guard system, it’s cutting edge,” said Assistant Chief A.C. White. “(In the old days) you had a delay from the time the officer exited the vehicle to the time the officer activated the body camera. You didn’t pick up everything.” When officers want to start rolling, “You just press the button in front one time,” said an officer. And press twice to stop it. “If I turn my overhead lights on that activates the dash cam, my camera and my partner’s camera,” said one officer.
But the cameras are also smart enough to just come on at certain times. And all the cameras come on, the dash cam, the body cameras on both officers and a camera facing whoever is in the back seat of the police car.
“There’s a lot of sensitivity around policing matters in urban America,” White said. ““We’re not always going to get it right but here are the facts and circumstances I dealt with when I made that evaluation.”
WeedWeek has ALL the marijuana news every week: Politics, Business, Criminal Justice, Health and Science, and Culture.
There always are several articles of great interest and import that I would love to call to your attention and highlight here, but time limits me to one or two. 🙁
- Former chair of Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission sentenced to 3+ years in federal prison.
This idiot gives the industry a bad rep when it is most in need of honesty and integrity!
Excerpts from the Article:
Daniel Rush, a former union organizer and former chair of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, was sentenced to 37 months in prison Monday for his involvement with fraud and money laundering.
U.S. District Court Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. sentenced Rush to that term even though his defense attorneys had argued that Rush actively helped drug addicts turn their lives around and that assistance would be nullified if he was behind bars. Judge Gilliam commented that “the case reflects large-scale, long-lasting corruption on the defendant’s part,” according to a press release put out Tuesday afternoon by the office of U.S. Attorney Brian J Stretch.
Rush, 57, who now lives in Crescent City, must report to the U.S. Marshals office in Oakland on Jan. 15, according to court documents. Rush must also pay a $7,500 fine and will be subject to a three-year term of supervised release when he gets out of jail.
In one of the original counts, Rush allegedly offered special treatment to an applicant for Berkeley’s fourth dispensary spot, but “demanded a well-paid job” from the applicant in exchange, according to the indictment. In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Stretch said Rush threatened the owner that if he “did not offer him a salaried job, with benefits, he would take adverse action against its application.”
Rush also admitted that he had used his position as the organizing coordinator for the medical cannabis and hemp division of the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW International) Local 5 to enrich himself.
2. We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner – alcohol is worse!
No surprise to me! See the findings in several areas of health.
Excerpts from the Article:
Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey? It’s a tough call, but based on the science, there appears to be a clear answer.
Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked.
Time is important, too — while some effects are noticeable immediately, others only begin to crop up after months or years of use. The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is a lot murkier because of its mostly illegal status.
More than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been zero documented deaths from marijuana use alone.
In 2014, 30,722 people died from alcohol-induced causes in the US — and that does not count drinking-related accidents or homicides. If those deaths were included, the number would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, no deaths from marijuana overdoses have been reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A 16-year study of more than 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not use cannabis.
Marijuana appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol. Close to half of all adults have tried marijuana at least once, making it one of the most widely used illegal drugs — yet research suggests that a relatively small percentage of people become addicted.
For a 1994 survey, epidemiologists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse asked more than 8,000 people from ages 15 to 64 about their drug use. Of those who had tried marijuana at least once, roughly 9% eventually fit a diagnosis of addiction. For alcohol, the figure was about 15%. To put that in perspective, the addiction rate for cocaine was 17%, while heroin was 23% and nicotine was 32%.
Marijuana may be harder on your heart, while moderate drinking could be beneficial. Unlike alcohol, which slows your heart rate, marijuana speeds it up, which could negatively affect the heart in the short term. Still, the largest-ever report on cannabis from the National Academies of Sciences, released in January, found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis may increase the overall risk of a heart attack.
On the other hand, low to moderate drinking — about one drink a day — has been linked with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with abstention. James Nicholls, a director at Alcohol Research UK, told The Guardian that those findings should be taken with a grain of salt since “any protective effects tend to be canceled out by even occasional bouts of heavier drinking.”
Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; marijuana is not.
In November, a group of the nation’s top cancer doctors issued a statement asking people to drink less. They cited strong evidence that drinking alcohol — as little as a glass of wine or beer a day — increases the risk of developing both pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer. The US Department of Health lists alcohol as a known human carcinogen. Research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink — particularly the more you drink regularly — the higher your risk of developing cancer.
For marijuana, some research initially suggested a link between smoking and lung cancer, but that has been debunked. The January report found that cannabis was not connected to any increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers tied to smoking cigarettes.
Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse.
A research note published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (PDF) found that, when adjusting for other factors, having a detectable amount of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) in your blood did not increase the risk of being involved in a car crash. Having a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.05%, on the other hand, increased that risk by 575%.
Still, combining the two appears to have the worst results. “The risk from driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone,” the authors of a 2009 review wrote in the American Journal of Addiction.
Several studies link alcohol with violence, particularly at home. That has not been found for cannabis. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes, and a study of college students found that the rates of mental and physical abuse were higher on days when couples drank.
On the other hand, no such relationship appears to exist for cannabis. A recent study looking at cannabis use and intimate partner violence in the first decade of marriage found that marijuana users were significantly less likely to commit violence against a partner than those who did not use the drug.
Both drugs negatively affect your memory — but in different ways. These effects are the most common in heavy, frequent, or binge users. Both weed and alcohol temporarily impair memory, and alcohol can cause blackouts by rendering the brain incapable of forming memories. The most severe long-term effects are seen in heavy, chronic, or binge users who begin using in their teens.
Studies have found that these effects can persist for several weeks after stopping marijuana use. There may also be a link between daily weed use and poorer verbal memory in adults who start smoking at a young age.
Both drugs are linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disease. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concern; with booze, it’s depression and anxiety.
Alcohol appears to be linked more closely with weight gain, despite weed’s tendency to trigger the munchies. Weed gives you the munchies. It makes you hungry, reduces the natural signals of fullness, and may even temporarily make food taste better. But despite eating over 600 extra calories when smoking, marijuana users generally don’t have higher body-mass indexes. In fact, studies suggest that regular smokers have a slightly reduced risk of obesity.
Alcohol, on the other hand, appears to be linked with weight gain. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who drank heavily had a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Plus, alcohol itself is caloric: A can of beer has roughly 150 calories, and a glass of wine has about 120.
All things considered, alcohol’s effects seem markedly more extreme — and riskier — than marijuana’s.
When it comes to addiction profiles and risk of death or overdose combined with ties to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.
Still, because of marijuana’s largely illegal status, long-term studies on all its health effects have been limited — meaning more research is needed.
ALSO: California released its hotly anticipated regulations for the REC market, while much of the industry was at MJBizCon in Las Vegas . (For more on MJBizCon see here .) The rules total nearly 300 pages and came out of the Bureau of Cannabis Control as well as the state Food and Agriculture and Public Health departments.
Have you realized yet that our “war on drugs” is the most costly, clearly failed, catastrophically disastrous policy in history? READ h How The War on Drugs has Destroyed Justice
Places like these safe sites make sense!
Excerpts from the Article:
A new safe injection site, Spectre de Rue, is opening in Montreal next week on Ontario Street near Panet Street. With a budget of $1.4 million, the site is the fourth of its kind to open in Montreal since last June.
While the new site has drawn criticism for its close proximity to a local elementary school, Spectre de Rue’s executive director, Gilles Beauregard, says it will actually help make the neighbourhood safer. “It’s a great leap for us to have this kind of service,” said Beauregard, who’s been in charge of the needle exchange operation for 23 years. “Many people are happy to have this new service.”
Without safe injection sites, he says, drug users end up injecting in public spaces like parks and bathrooms.
“We are there for 20 years, and nothing’s happened,” said Beauregard. The site has also been hosting community feedback meetings and has been in touch with some representatives of the nearby school, École Marguerite-Bourgeoys. He told CBC that Spectre de Rue can accommodate four people at a time and will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
When the site first opens, Beauregard expects to see about 30 injections per day.
However, the Montreal police say these hours make sense, considering that the centre already gives out syringes through its existing needle exchange program. SPVM Cmdr. Simon Durocher said he doesn’t expect an influx of drug users in the neighbourhood.
Depending what study you read, there are between 10,000 and 100,000 INNOCENT people in our prisons, for a variety of reasons. A surprising number have confessed. The is the WORST indication of the dysfunction of our system, and yet change is soooooo slow in coming. Why?! Because for every 1 person arrested, 29 people benefit financially! Powerful forces, police unions, prison guard unions, all the contractors supplying prisons and aftercare “programs”, private prison companies, many more,and even prosecutors, spend billions of dollars in “legal bribes” – lobbying and campaign donations” – to oppose change. For them job preservation tops justice.
WHY is a detective named Kriston Kato not in prison?! Appoint me as special prosecutor and I guarantee you I could get him convicted of kidnapping, false imprisonment, and other charges!
Excerpts from the Article:
A 46-year-old Chicago man was released from prison on Tuesday after being acquitted of a murder charge from 1991. After spending 26 years behind bars, Patrick Prince was embraced by friends and family, including his daughter, outside of the Cook County prison.
Prince was 19 years old when he was charged. “It’s going to take some getting used to again. But at the moment, I’m holding. I’m sleep-deprived. Just trying to get back re-acclimated to society,” Prince told Chicago TV station Fox32.
According to a court order, a man named Edward Porter was shot and killed on a sidewalk on August 28, 1991. Police received an anonymous tip just a few weeks later which pointed the finger at Prince.
Once he was brought to the police station, Prince confessed to the murder and was arrested. His confession was the only piece of evidence used against him.
The Exoneration Project, a group of lawyers focused on proving innocent cases, took interest in Prince’s situation and took him on as a client. They claim that when Prince was brought in for questioning, he was physically and verbally abused until he falsely confessed, reciting a story that was spoon-fed to him by a detective named Kriston Kato.
In an article published by the organization, they said that Kato had a longstanding “pattern and practice” when it came to getting confessions out of suspects. Since Prince’s trial, over 30 people have claimed that Det. Kato beat or coerced them in his efforts to obtain confessions.
According to the Exoneration Project, Kato had been recently asked to testify at a hearing related to the case and was thoroughly impeached. When asked whether he would solve crimes “by any means necessary,” Kato stated plainly: “That was my job.”
The presiding judge, Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson, wrote in his court order that based on the new evidence and lack of physical or forensic evidence,
“I’m happy to be out. To the rest of the guys who’re locked up still fighting their wrongful convictions, keep fighting,” he said.
ACLU: Hundreds of El Paso County inmates kept in jail over $55 fee – Outrageous! Lack of $55 forcing a Mom to plead to a felony to try to avoid losing custody of her newborn?! ABSURDLY UNJUST! kra
Good God! Will common sense ever visit our criminal justice system?! Lack of $55 forcing a Mom to plead to a felony to try to avoid losing custody of her newborn?! ABSURDLY UNJUST!
Excerpts from the Article:
Hundreds of El Paso County inmates have endured “weeks and even months of senseless and illegal pretrial incarceration” because they cannot afford to pay a $55 release fee imposed by the county, the ACLU of Colorado said Tuesday in a federal lawsuit highlighting the practice’s disproportionate effect on the poor.
The complaint, which names El Paso County as the sole defendant, was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of Jasmine Still, a Colorado Springs woman held for 27 days after a court granted her pretrial release.
Although a judge ordered that she be let out of jail on a supervised personal recognizance bond – involving her signed pledge to attend court appearances on a pending drug charge – Still couldn’t afford to pay El Paso County Pretrial Services and was deemed ineligible for release.
During a one-year period examined by the ACLU, the same issue kept up to 300 inmates in custody – some for more than 100 days. The expense of incarcerating them – $88.72 per day per inmate – outstrips revenue from charging the $55 release fee, increasing costs for taxpayers, the complaint alleges.
“We want to put a stop to this practice of holding people in jail for lack of $55,” said Mark Silverstein, the legal director for ACLU of Colorado, saying the policy “makes no sense legally, morally and ethically.”
Instead of posting a cash bond, a defendant who is granted a personal recognizance bond signs an agreement to appear in court and to comply with any release conditions. Supervised personal recognizance bonds involve additional oversight by Pretrial Services workers, sometimes including drug and alcohol monitoring.
Judges and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are aware the fee has extended inmates’ stays in jail, but say they have no authority to waive it under county policy, perpetuating a system that punishes the poor, the ACLU said.
The ACLU also is seeking a monetary award for Still on grounds the fee violated her constitutional guarantees to due process. Her extra month in jail kept her apart from her newborn, and child custody proceedings were initiated against her during that time, the ACLU said in a news release. She ultimately decided to plead guilty to a felony drug charge in order to fight for custody of her children, costing her the opportunity to accept a misdemeanor plea offer that depended on her being employed, the ACLU said. The child custody action is pending.
Federal “extreme vetting” plan castigated by tech experts – This Nation was Built by Immigrants! kra
tRump knows what immigrants are for: you hire them to do the hard work, and then declare bankruptcy so you never pay them! This is more nonsense by our mean-spirited doofus of a president, disguised as a “security” measure. Just like so many racist and useless laws are disguised as “tough on crime”!
Excerpts from the Article:
Leading researchers castigated a federal plan that would use artificial intelligence methods to scrutinize immigrants and visa applicants, saying it is unworkable as written and likely to be “inaccurate and biased” if deployed. The experts, a group of more than 50 computer and data scientists, mathematicians and other specialists in automated decision-making, urged the Department of Homeland Security to abandon the project, dubbed the “Extreme Vetting Initiative.”
That plan has its roots in President Donald Trump’s repeated pledge during the 2016 campaign to subject immigrants seeking admission to the United States to more intense ideological scrutiny — or, as he put it, ” extreme vetting .” Over the summer, DHS published a ” statement of objectives ” for a system that would use computer algorithms to scan social media and other material in order to automatically flag undesirable entrants — and to continuously scan the activities of those allowed into the U.S.
The goal, that document stated, was to let computers help determine whether an immigrant “intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts,” as well as their likelihood of becoming a “positively contributing member of society.” In a joint letter to DHS on Thursday, the dissenting researchers called that approach “neither appropriate nor feasible.” In the document, the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was seeking a contractor to automate background checks of foreigners seeking temporary or permanent entry to the U.S. It outlined plans for mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, academic websites and other publicly-available internet data, then using AI techniques to analyze it and to keep monitoring those sources. This contractor would be expected to generate at least 10,000 investigative leads a year that would be forwarded to federal agents, according to the document.
Trump has made repeated attempts to restrict entry into the U.S. through several iterations of a travel ban, all of which have received a tough reception in the courts.
The technology experts, who hail from both academia and big tech firms such as Google and Microsoft, warned that current AI methods aren’t capable of evaluating the traits that the government seeks to measure. “Neither the federal government nor anyone else has defined, much less attempted to quantify, these characteristics,” the technologists wrote. “Algorithms designed to predict these undefined qualities could be used to arbitrarily flag groups of immigrants under a veneer of objectivity.”
“This isn’t something that anyone should be willing to build,” said Robinson, who signed the technologists’ letter. “Whatever you think about what the immigration rules ought to be, this is just nuts. And it’s nuts dressed up as science.”
Talk about convoluted thinking and bogus “reasoning”! tRump is a danger to our nation, to mankind, and to animals. There are reasons that the ban has been in place for years. Most regrettably, he is a danger to Justice.
I can hear Donald Jr now: ” Oh, goodie goodie, Daddy says I can bring home the head of an elephant, tusks and all!”
Elephants have complex communications, deep emotions, and ARE the smartest land animals. Majestic and magnificent.
Donald #Trump Jr shows him holding the amputated tail of a dead #elephant
Excerpts from the Article:
The Trump administration said it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport, contending that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill them will aid the vulnerable species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that permitting elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as trophies will raise money for conservation programs. A licensed two-week African elephant hunt can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.
The change marks a shift in efforts to stop the importation of elephant tusks and hides, overriding a 2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. The new policy applies to the remains of African elephants killed between January 2016 and December 2018.
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the agency said in a statement.
Animal rights activists and environmental groups expressed skepticism Thursday that killing elephants could help save them. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said the policy change sends the wrong signal amid international efforts to curb illegal poaching.
“What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it’s just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?” Pacelle asked.
But the move was quickly praised by groups that champion big-game trophy hunting, including Safari Club International and the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association. The two groups had sued to challenge the ban in court. Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, called the action “a significant step forward in having hunting receive the recognition it deserves as a tool of sound wildlife management, which had been all but buried in the previous administration.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, recently installed the arcade game “Big Buck Hunter Pro” in the employee cafeteria at the agency’s Washington headquarters, a move he said would promote wildlife and habitat conservation. In June, the department removed longstanding protections for grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park, a step to potentially allow them to be hunted.
The world’s largest land mammal, the African elephant has been classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1979. Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also dwindled by more than half. As a result, the number of African elephants has shrunk from about 5 million a century ago to about 400,000 remaining. And that number continues to decline each year.
According to the United Nations, as many as 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.