08/28/11 Florence Coaxum

Florence Coaxum re forthcoming Criminal Justice System and PTSD conf at TSU + Megan Ralston with Drug Policy Alliance re Aug 31 recognition of "Overdose Awareness Day"

Century of Lies
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Florence Coaxum
Texas Southern University
Download: Audio icon COL_082811.mp3



Century of Lies / August 28, 2011


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Ah yes, once again, we get to talk about the Century of Lies - this Drug War, it’s impact on our neighborhoods, our communities, our nation and the world. We have with us today, in studio, Florence Coaxum. She’s preparing a seminar that will be held in September at Texas Southern University and with that I want to welcome Florence. Hello.


DEAN BECKER: Florence, tell us about this seminar. What’s this going to entail?

FLORENCE COAXUM: Let me start with who I am and what I do. I’m a psychotherapist. I’ve been in this business for about 20 years. I started on the road of working with the whole concept of the Drug War and incarceration and Post Traumatic Stress. I visited a prison in Louisiana and I was shocked at what I saw and, as a result of that, I decided that something needed to be done and I going to play my part.

And one of the things I felt was necessary was to educate. And I think that’s what I do best. So I decided to start putting together seminars. This will be our second seminar at Texas Southern University. Basically we will be talking about Post Traumatic Stress and its impact on offenders, x-offenders and society at large in terms of people being incarcerated.

DEAN BECKER: Florence, I think about the stress that can be inflicted during a bust. My last show we were talking about cops coming in, shooting the dogs and terrorizing everyone in the house. That’s some sort of stress. And then there’s the actual arrest, the trip to jail, the time in jail, the knowledge that maybe you’re going to be behind those bars for a long time. And then there’s the gangs and the violence and all the other “attributes” of prison life that …it’s hard to come out after years and adjust to this “more modern society” than the one you left, right?

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. One of the problems, especially with the Drug War, is that the prison population in the United States has expanded – especially since the 1970s. And, as a result of that, at least 50% of most people incarcerated are incarcerated for non-violent offences which are drug related. That doesn’t include the ones who have committed the offences as a result of being on substances.

As a result of that you’ve got many people who probably don’t need to be incarcerated – behind bars. And they are there for long sentences. When you start talking about not only the War on Drugs but also mandatory sentencing and the difference between having crack cocaine as opposed to powder cocaine and the kind of sentences. Since the 1970s, long sentences – people being incarcerated 10, 15, 20 years, some life – and when they come out they are experiencing, as far as I’m concerned, trauma.

Many of them need to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. Many of them started with Post Traumatic Stress. So their condition has been compounded as a result of going behind bars.

So we’re really not serving any real purpose by putting people who have drug addictions behind bars. And also folks who’ve made a career, petty criminals, who’ve made a career out of selling drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we are speaking with Florence Coaxum. She’s producing a seminar that’s going to be at Texas Southern University in September.

I wanted to talk about the stress. I was trying to list some of the stresses that the prisoners endure but the fact of the matter is that stress is also handed down to the descendants, through the children many times who’s parent or parents are behind bars and the trauma that is inflicted on them. It is multi-generational, is it not?

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. When you start talking about the profile of an offender, which we’ve discovered there is a profile, many of them come from traumatic situations - family structures that are toxic and that are not really there to help the child thrive. So, as far as I’m concerned, many of these folks go into prison carrying trauma.

Many of them have experienced loss of parents, parents who are absent due to drugs, violence, various types of abuse – physical and sexual – also neglect. That, to me, causes many of them to make choices that put themselves in harm’s way or many of them want to self-medicate or attempt to self-medicate through drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and then get caught up in the system again…


DEAN BECKER: …and on and on. Now I wanted to talk about one of the topics that will be discussed at the seminar is the prison industrial complex as a private business and, I guess what I’m saying is…the profit margin is more important than the health and well-being of the prisoners. It takes away from good care.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. What happens, and most people don’t realize, is prison is a business. There are many corporations that use prison labor. There are various vendors that come in and provide their services within the prison environment. And all of them make a profit. The state or private prisons (which is now on the rise) - their making a profit so they have an incentive to keep these institutions in place.

DEAN BECKER: Right and without a good doctor, without good medical care…synthetic food in many cases that never had any relationship to the earth.

FLORENCE COAXUM: There’s another issue that happens as well. Various communities are built up around the prison. The prison provides jobs for those individuals in the community. The census is used. Instead of that inmate being counted as part of the census for the community they came from, they are counted as part of the census for the community that the prison resides in. Therefor the community they came from loses out. That’s unfortunate because that community begins to deteriorate in other ways as well.

DEAN BECKER: So you have a farm town of 500 people that has thousands of people on its census roles and therefor they get better roads and schools probably.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. And that community that that offender comes from doesn’t get those services.

DEAN BECKER: The Drug War just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. Now one of the main areas where it deviates from what we would expect from our government is in the racial disparity. From the implementation – who’s impacted by these laws.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Right now Afro-Americans and Hispanics are the two groups that are impacted. You would assume that these groups use more drugs, sell more drugs than their white counterparts – which is not true. Whites use as many drugs – if not more – than Afro-Americans and Hispanics but because of the disparity throughout the criminal justice system, Afro-Americans as well as Hispanics are targeted.

Whites usually are not targeted or if they’re fairly well off they can have someone bring drugs into their community for them – they don’t have to go into the communities where Hispanics and blacks are. And where there’s a high concentration of police officers.

So, again, they’re targeted and unfortunately it’s the black and Hispanic communities that are suffering as a result of the large numbers of these individuals being incarcerated – male and female.

DEAN BECKER: On the drive in I saw something that made me think about what is it that gets kids pulled over. Being white I only had that experience…It’s basically being long-haired, being figgity and being passing a joint as the cop sees you. Otherwise, whites are pretty much left alone. Through some aberration, some stupidity that they get pulled over.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly but if you’re black/Hispanic you’re targeted. You’re automatically targeted. Unfortunately many folks end up in prison on crimes that they didn’t even do. They were pulled over and maybe they had a small amount of say marijuana. They were pulled over. They can get caught in the criminal justice system and end up doing 5 years, maybe 10. They can be pulled over and be accused of being someone else who’s committed a crime and get caught up in the system. If they don’t have money to pay for a halfway decent attorney, more than likely, they’re going to end up with a court-appointed attorney that’s going to encourage them to plead out. Usually that involves lots of years in jail. And they are going to say, “Well, even though you didn’t do it, you’re being accused of it and therefor I suggest you not go to trial because you’re not going to be able to fight it.”

Also the state doesn’t have money allocated for defendants who are in the court-appointed system. If you have money you can get a good attorney. You can hire a private attorney who can do various kinds of investigations. That is not available for those who don’t have money.

DEAN BECKER: Alright friends, once again we’re speaking with Florence Coaxum who’s producing a seminar at Texas Southern University. Why don’t you give them some details on what days that will be.

FLORENCE COAXUM: The seminar is going to be on the 16th of September – that’s a Friday. And on the 17th of September – that’s Saturday. It’s from 9 to 4, all day on both days.

DEAN BECKER: I want to read a list here. Florence, of course, will be speaking. We’ll hear from Katheryn Griffin, she’s a recovery counselor. We’ll hear from Marie Preston, inmate and ex-offender advocate. Carl Veley, good friend of mine at the Drug Policy Forum of Texas and LEAP. We’ll hear from Ray Hill, my mentor – the guy who first put me on the airwaves. Jerry Epstein, head of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. The list goes on. These are people who have examined this situation, this policy for decades in some cases. It’s the Criminal Justice System and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Conference at Texas Southern University. Is there a website where folks can learn more?

FLORENCE COAXUM: They can call my number which is (713) 732-6191. They can also call Texas Southern which is (713) 313-7489 – that’s the continuing education program.

One of the things I wanted to mention, Dean, is the solution. Many may wonder, “Well, what’s the solution to these problems?” One of the suggestions that we have is 1) Many of the folks who have drug issues need to be in a clinic. The drug policy issues need to be under a medical model. That means any kind of addiction needs to be dealt with through a clinic. Those folks who are out there making a career out of selling drugs – that needs to be handled through the school district. Somewhere along the line the school system has failed them and we need to find a way to get them plugged into the educational system. Get them trained in various occupations that they can make some money at because that’s all they’re doing – making a living.

DEAN BECKER: I also want to talk about the treatment. I’ve interviewed several psychologists who have studies this and developed the data set and they find that the vast majority of people who use these “illegal drugs” quit about the time they reach 25 or 30, on their own, without need of a treatment center or whatever. Those few who have that true addiction, the need for a drug on a daily basis, I agree, they need to have access to a treatment center. The fact of the matter is most of these dollars are spent in law enforcement and probation and all of that and so little is allocated to treatment that when somebody says, “I need help.” They say, “Well, we’ll put you on a six week waiting list.” And, by then, who knows…

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. This is also creating a permanent underclass because once they do their time, they come out and what’s available to them? Jobs are not available. If you have certain kinds of offences or a certain type of felony, food stamps, housing, etc. are not available. And even going to college is not available for certain types of offences.

So, you’re causing folks to not only come out and not have access to services that may help them but you’re causing them to end up going back because there’s nothing out here in society for them so they figure it’s easier to return to jail. So the recitative rate is very high.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to talk about…there’s one of the data points you have. As taxpayers – are we getting our money’s worth from tax dollars going into criminal justice programs. That kind of ties in with what you were just saying. The fact of the matter is is that those dollars that go towards fighting the Drug War are not going after violent criminals, they’re not going to our schools, our libraries, our roads or bridges. I’ve heard it said that the money spent on the Drug War is over a trillion dollars in the last 40 years. It would be great if we could have some of that back, wouldn’t it?

FLORENCE COAXUM: Yeah, that could go into treatment, could go into working with children who are high risk and identifying them and following their families. Certainly we need those dollars to go into things that can really work. If we continue with incarcerating people, this is going to really create a problem throughout our society. One we can’t afford.

It will bankrupt us eventually. And, we’re wasting a whole pool of folks that eventually we need. We’re going to need people to be in the workforce at some point. As baby boomers begin to retire, we need people to pay for their social security which means that they need to be employed. So we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak because we’re creating a situation where we’re getting absolutely nothing out of the incarceration of large amounts of people.

And the only people who are winning here are the ones who are benefitting financially from the prison system. Corporations, the prison system itself, private prisons and the vendors who come into the prisons – those are the ones who are benefitting. Taxpayers, offenders, ex-offenders are benefitting not at all.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you 100% but you are leaving out the fact that the Taliban is benefitting from growing flowers on the mountain side so they can buy weapons to kill our fine soldiers. These barbarous cartels in Mexico are benefitting by the 10s of billions and killing 10s of thousands of people every year. And the violent gangs that prowl our neighborhoods can afford their high-powered weaponry by selling contaminated drugs to our children. There is just no logic. My question, if I’m ever given the chance to speak to the Drug Czar or some high mucky-muck official…I’m going to ask them one question. In lieu of all this horrible blow back, what is the benefit? What have we derived? What makes this worth continuing? And, of course, they’re avoiding me and that question and probably will forever, I suppose.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Yeah because they can’t answer it. We’re benefitting not at all. I should mention there are other groups that are profiting too. Folks who have jobs and also that are higher up in the Drug War – they’re benefitting as well. The various other organizations such as guards and other unions – they’re benefitting. But, as far as taxpayers, the offender, ex-offender – no way.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s don’t forget the banks. They launder the money for these cartels. Folks, we’re being swindled. We’re being setup and fed a bag of lies on a daily basis. We got just a couple minutes left here. I want to remind you we’re speaking with Florence Coaxum. She’s putting together a seminar at Texas Southern University. One more time, please, let’s go over the dates and tell them how they can learn more.

FLORENCE COAXUM: September 16th and 17th - Friday and Saturday. The phone numbers are (713) 732-6191 and (713) 313-7489.

DEAN BECKER: I didn’t mention that I’ll be speaking here too if you’d like to see me in person. Either way, come on down, you get continuing education credits. It is going to be a real “bell ringer”, it will waken you up. It will hopefully put you to work helping bring this to an end. And you’re going to be exploring the alternative methods to the current approach to crime and punishment. We got about a minute and a half, go ahead.

FLORENCE COAXUM: I had mentioned that earlier. We’re talking about clinics dealing with drug addiction. Also we’re dealing with children who are at risk. The school system, setting up a program specifically for children who are at risk, doing assessments to determine that the child is at risk and following that family by providing support, etc. If there’s no way that that family is able to provide the kind of support that that child needs to thrive then our suggestion is the child needs to be removed. I know everybody’s going to have a fit about that but in some families some children do need to be removed from the family. Especially if there are drugs involved, the parents are not motivated, etc. We also need to put more money into re-entry programs for the folks who are coming out. Not just intervention in terms of drug addiction but also psychological programs dealing with the issues that brought them to the prison system in the first place. Those are some of the suggestions we have. There are others but those are the ones that we are focusing in on.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you. We’ve squandered our nation’s, our state’s, our city’s treasury doing the wrong things. Maybe it was well intentioned, maybe it was worthwhile at one time but it’s certainly time to reexamine and redirect it now.

FLORENCE COAXUM: Exactly. And I’m not sure we were really on the right track in the first place. I really don’t think so. Unfortunately when you start targeting racial groups that in itself is problematic because you’re placing people way behind. You’re not allowing them to really explore their full potential and that’s a problem in our society.

DEAN BECKER: We’re going to wrap it up now. Please folks call (713) 732-6191. The seminar is Friday and Saturday, September 16th and 17th at Texas Southern University in the Library. Thank you, Florence.



MEGAN RALSTON: This is Megan Ralston with the Drug Policy Alliance. I’m the Harm Reduction Coordinator and today we’re going to be talking about Overdose Awareness Day.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s tell folks first-off when that is.

MEGAN RALSTON: That’s August 31st. According to the CDC the most recent information we have is around 28,000 Americans died in the most recent data year available which is 2007. The Salvation Army in Australia, many years ago, around 11 years ago, started International Overdose Awareness Day and it’s been around in other parts of the world for many years. But these are beginning to be the first few years that we’re starting to see the day really acknowledged in the United States.

Of course it’s not just rock stars and musicians who die from overdose but it’s all kinds of people – moms and dads and sons and daughters – all kinds of people are at risk and all kinds of people die.

DEAN BECKER: Megan, one of the stats that truly startled me is that if you reach back just a decade ago, approximately, the number was half that 28,000 dead, was it not?

MEGAN RALSTON: Right. You know the overdose death rate in the United States has absolutely been sky rocketing. The most recent data year available, 2007, we recorded the highest number of overdoses we’ve ever seen in the United States. The number is not just growing rapidly, it’s not an overstatement to say it’s absolutely exploding.

DEAN BECKER: There are 10 steps you can do to help prevent an overdose death. In many ways the government has failed to make use of them or even to consider them. Maybe the top two, the Good Samaritan laws which New York and New Mexico have put into place and the availability of the counter-narcotic drug on a regular basis, right?

MEGAN RALSTON: Those two things that you just mentioned, the Good Samaritan 911 laws and making Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, more widely available…those are sort of the two things that we would think of as being “no brainers” because they cost absolutely nothing- nothing for the taxpayers. And they work quickly and they get results and they’re proven ways to prevent overdose deaths.

There’s a lot of reluctance from the federal government and state governments to really start tackling the overdose problems so they delay in implementing these effective strategies and meanwhile the death rate just keeps going up. So, at some point, we really have to stop waiting for things to get better by themselves. We have to stop hoping that the overdose problem will correct itself and we have to start implementing some of these solutions - particularly the solutions that cost taxpayers absolutely nothing.

When we’re talking about the skyrocketing overdose deaths in this country we’re not talking about overdose attributed to things like cocaine and heroin – those numbers are biggish but consistent, generally, from year to year. What we’re talking about is deaths that are being caused by prescription opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and thing like that.

So it’s so easy to accidentally overdose fatally when you take something with an opioid painkiller like alcohol. We don’t teach this kind of information in our anti-drug curriculums in school and it’s really shameful that we don’t. We tell kids “Just Say No”, “Be abstinent”, “Don’t Use” and we really drill these messages in their heads but, of course, it’s foolish to think that all young people are going to choose to never experiment with drugs.

So what we could and should be doing is educating kids that doing drugs can be risky and sometimes deadly and here are the most deadly things you can possibly do. Under no circumstances should you ever do those things. If we just started talking about how to reduce the risk of overdose. Just teach the young people how to prevent and recognize and respond to an overdose – we could go a long way to start saving some lives.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’re speaking with Megan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance. Again, the International Overdose Awareness Day, tell us more about that, perhaps how folks can participate and learn more.

MEGAN RALSTON: International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31s t, is a big even all around the world. Many, many countries do things to commemorate that day. People do obvious things that you might sort of expect on a day like that like vigils and candlelight ceremonies to remember people who have passed. But a lot of places do really interesting other types of things like rallies and protests and performance art pieces and photography shows of people who have survived an overdose and the location of their overdose. There are people around the country this year who are recording themselves talking about how they have survived an overdose or have been with someone who has survived and it’s part of a big, worldwide video campaign to try and put a face on the impact of overdose around the world.

There are many places all across the U.S. that are doing really interesting events this year and if your listeners are interested in learning more about that they can visit http://drugpolicy.org/overdose and we have a list of all kinds of things that are happening for Overdose Awareness Day.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, if you’re out there on the network somewhere and you hear this after the event has occurred doesn’t mean it’s too late to do something about it. Please, do the rational, logical thing.

I want to thank Florence Coaxum for being with us and be sure to check out that seminar. I hope to see you there. Next week I’m going to be in Oakland reporting from a massive marijuana street fest where adults can smoke. With that I guess I want to remind you that there’s no truth, no logic, no reason for this Drug War to exist – we’ve been duped. Please do your part to end this madness. Visit our website, http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org