Press Release  | 11/08/2001

Senate Judiciary Committee Confirms Controversial 'Drug Czar' Despite Widespread Opposition from Civil Rights & Public Health Organizations

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Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Schumer, Biden & Durbin Voted Against Walters
Drug Policy Experts Available for Interviews

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to confirm President Bush's controversial 'drug czar' nominee, John Walters, despite criticism from the Betty Ford Center, ACLU, American Public Health Association, the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus and a range of other civil rights and public health organizations.

The Committee voted 14 to 5 to approve Walters. In opposition were the three senior members of the Judiciary Committee - Committee Chair Senator Leahy (D-VT); Senator Biden (D-DE), Chair of the Subcommittee on Drugs and Crime, and Senator Kennedy (D-MA). Also in opposition were Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Durbin (D-IL).

"As a national leader, Walter's must respond to what the American people want when it comes to new drug policies," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation. "It is his responsibility now to focus more on community-based drug treatment for non-violent offenders and ways to curb racial profiling."

Prior to today's Committee vote, a number of organizations criticized Walter's record on treatment and race. For example:

  • A majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Latino Voters League, National Black Police Association, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said: "His views on race and crime make him unfit for a position that requires sensitivity to racial fairness."
  • Betty Ford Center said: "Mr. Walters may not have the confidence in the treatment and prevention strategies that we believe are necessary for the creation and implementation of a balanced and thoughtful approach to U.S. drug policy."
  • Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Council of La Raza, Human Rights Watch said: "Mr. Walters' recent writings on the issue of race and criminal justice in the United States are of grave concern to us...;We are concerned that Mr. Walters is insufficiently supportive of drug treatment and other alternatives to incarceration...;The time has come to learn from our mistakes and move in a new direction. Unfortunately, Mr. Walters is an embodiment of failed policies of the past."

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916

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