STATEWIDE GRAND JURY REPORT
December 14, 2000
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
THIRD INTERIM REPORT
FIFTEENTH STATEWIDE GRAND JURY
(This document has been re-formatted for the Internet)
AN ANALYSIS OF FLORIDA'S DRUG CONTROL EFFORTS
At the outset, we wish to commend the vision and leadership of Governor Jeb Bush; Florida's first Drug Policy Coordinator, James R. McDonough; the 1999 and 2000 Florida Legislatures; the Florida Cabinet; the judiciary; the heads of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies; as well as the community based and treatment oriented programs working together to solve the drug problem. Many dedicated professionals appeared before us on this topic, and their work gave us the understanding and motivation to pursue the creation of this document.
Before we heard from the witnesses about the results of their work, we held the belief that Florida's officials were not serious about the "war on drugs." But we learned during our term that, in fact, Florida has taken the lead in many notable areas and has made significant strides in coordinating its efforts and targeting its resources. Through the witnesses we learned about the following recent and significant accomplishments in this State:
- The creation of Florida's first Office of Drug Control
- The appointment of the first Director of Drug Control
- The publication of Florida's first Drug Control Strategy
- The formation of Florida's first Drug Policy Advisory Council
- The first statewide drug importation volume assessment
- The first Seaport Study to determine the security of Florida seaports
- The presentation of two Drug Control Summit
- The passage of tighter money transmitter laws and anti-drug trafficking laws, including the resurrection of minimum mandatory prison sentences for drug dealers, and laws to deal with "designer drugs"
- The conceptual creation of a "community coalition" team-building training curriculum
- The additional funding for and creation of contraband interdiction teams in the Department of Transportation's Division of Motor Carrier Compliance
- The passage of a law banning the possession of secret compartments in vehicles for drug trafficking
- Substantial increases in treatment funding ($420 million total)
- The expansion of drug courts to each judicial circuit
- The statewide inter-agency enforcement effort against RAVE club drug use
- The enhancement of the anti-drug youth media campaign
By the issuance of this report, we urge all Florida's to take the drug problem seriously, to keep the spotlight on the work of government officials in this area and support it, to foster the political will and sense of social responsibility necessary to solve the problem, and to endorse the appropriation of the necessary resources to achieve the goals of the 1999 Drug Control Strategy ("the Strategy"). In other words, we the members of the Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury believe that if this "war" is to be won, we all must support it. Public lip service won't do; action is essential and resources are the key.
To that end, we have detailed our work to the extent authorized by law, and document our several suggestions and recommendations of specific action points for consideration by the various stake-holders in this issue - but most importantly, to the people of this great State.
During our term, we returned indictments on charges of Trafficking in Heroin, Trafficking in Cocaine, Introduction of Contraband Into a Prison Facility, and Conspiracy to commit those crimes. Since the beginning of our term, our legal advisers have filed 80 narcotics trafficking and money laundering cases against 231 defendants. An additional 23 narcotics trafficking and seven money laundering investigations were opened during our term. Some of these filed cases and investigations include, as examples, the seizure of 320 pounds of marijuana, 44 vials of ketamine, 3.3 kilograms of MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as "ecstasy"), 52 kilograms of cocaine, over one kilogram of heroin, 21 firearms - including a semi-automatic MAC-10, and $1.7 million in cash. They reflect cases from the sale of steroids over the Internet, to the purchase from undercover agents of 100,000 tablets of MDMA for $550,000, to the surveillance of money launderers depositing cash and money orders into the same bank account with different tellers at the same time at the rate of $8,000 per day per account.
We quickly became concerned that these illegal and dangerous activities were taking place in our back yards, exposed to our children, under the noses of authority. We, like any group of citizens who have the time to consider the magnitude of such events, asked our legal advisers this simple question: "What is Florida doing about this problem?"
In response, and over the course of several months, we were presented with testimony from a host of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including administrators, narcotics investigators, and undercover officers; a number of juvenile justice authorities, including school resource and DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers; judges; cooperating criminal defendants; and members of the Governor's Office of Drug Control, Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida National Guard, U.S. Customs and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. We also heard from the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.
This is what we found:
- There are 1,000,000 users of illegal narcotics in Florida ("use" is defined as current use or use within the past 30 days)
- While there are "hot spots" of abuse in cities such as Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Cocoa Beach, and Naples, there is an increasing incidence of use and addiction in rural communities
- There are an estimated 700,000 drug addicts in the State of Florida
- It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of all crime reported in Florida is attributable to illicit drug activity
- The average age of use onset is 14 years
- In 1999, the national use rate was 6.4%; Florida's was 8%
- In 1999, the national teen use rate was 11.4%; Florida's was 15.7%
- Between 1992 and 1998, the national heroin use by 8th graders tripled
- The strength of marijuana and purity content of heroin is three to four times that of the 1970's
- From 1994-1999, the Florida death rate from cocaine went up by 65%
- In 1997 and 1998, cocaine related deaths outnumbered homicides in Florida
- In 1997 there were an estimated $250.8 million in hospital charges in Florida for the treatment of drug-related illnesses
- There is a serious shortage of residential treatment beds in Florida; treatment experts estimate Florida is meeting 20% of the treatment need
- The average waiting period for treatment through Florida's Department of Children and Family Services is three months
- Florida has experienced a startling increase in the number of overdoses and deaths attributable to a documented increased potency of heroin and the effects of "designer" or "club" drugs (nitrous oxide, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid or GHB, ecstasy, ketamine, LSD, and methamphetamine or "speed")
- Florida is experiencing an increase in predatory sexual activity ("date rape") in connection with the use of these "club" drugs
- An estimated 150 to 200 metric tons of cocaine and 3 metric tons of heroin arrive in Florida every year; some for use in Florida, some for distribution to other parts of the country
- The price for a kilogram of cocaine is approximately $18,000 to $21,000 in South Florida
- Billions of dollars in illegal drug proceeds are "washed" through bank accounts, money exchange houses, and exporting businesses in South Florida each year
- Reduce drug abuse in Florida to 4% or less
- Reduce drug abuse by Florida's youth, ages 12-17, to less than 4%
- Delay the onset of first-time drug use to 17 years or older
- Decrease drug abuse in the work place by 50%
- Reduce the number of chronic drug users in Florida by 50%
- Arrest the upward trends of heroin and cocaine-related deaths and bring them down by 50%
- Reduce the health costs associated with drug abuse by 25%
- Reduce the supply of illegal drugs in Florida by 33%
The Strategy was published at the end of 1999 after several months of consultation with legislators and staff, governmental agency heads, leaders of private organizations, federal authorities, and the news media. The Strategy "takes a long-term, holistic view of the State's drug problem" that "no single solution or entity can suffice to deal with the multi-faceted challenge that drug abuse represents," and that "it is only through a balanced array of demand reduction and supply reduction programs consistently executed over the long-term that Florida will be able to achieve a substantial reduction in drug use and availability and a corresponding reduction in their adverse consequences." 1999 Florida Drug Control Strategy, at 1-7.
As a body having the authority to review, assess, and report on the administration of the government of this State, we start by specifically commending the Strategy as well-researched, well-documented, and wisely conceived. It provides a valuable starting point for our discussions and compels us to conclude that with a plan in place, dedicated professionals eager to implement it, and the resources with which to execute it, Florida will succeed in accomplishing its goals.
Having read the Strategy and thus embarking upon our own evaluation of some of its key points, we found first and foremost that the Office of Drug Control must be given greater resources if it is to continue this valiant and important work. The strategic document, the subsequent drug importation volume study, the creation of the Florida Seaport Study, legislative lobbying, media contacts, and many other matters have been handled for more than a year by the Director and a staff of two full-time employees, with the assistance of a few employees loaned to the Office by other agencies. If the Office is to continue its leadership role, it simply must have more full-time and permanent resources.
It is also our understanding that the Office of Drug Control has no direct input in the administration or budget processes of the entities charged with attacking the drug problems of this State. In other words, the Office is articulating goals, directions, and action plans, yet it has only the power of persuasion with which to achieve implementation of the Strategy; the Office cannot compel compliance. It is one thing to promise the people a Strategy and produce one, it is quite another to implement it with the recommendations and expertise of the strategists. One suggestion has been made to give the Director "budget certification" responsibility over executive branch agencies, which would allow him to certify or decertify agency budgets, or a portion thereof, based on the scope and success of their anti-drug programs. Certification would only suggest Strategy compliance. Coupled with this responsibility, the Director would be required to comment on the legislative budget requests of non-executive branch agencies regarding the extent to which their programs are tied to the success of the Strategy. Only then can the Legislature be assured that "performance based budgeting" will be achieved with the goals of the Strategy in mind.
We understand that the Legislature shares a co-equal role in shaping, declaring, and implementing the policy directions of this State. The "budget certification" responsibility envisioned here is not intended to supersede the prerogative of the Legislature to apply resources in a different direction or with a different emphasis, but merely to give the Legislature the informed opinion of the resident expert in the Executive branch as to the direction of the budget entities themselves. Budget certification responsibility in the hands of the Drug Policy Director would give stakeholders a consistent point of contact and standard of review.
It is our finding and recommendation that these matters need to be addressed, and we urge the Governor and the Legislature to seriously consider them.
As we moved forward in our deliberations from the starting point of the Strategy, we found our attention drawn in the same directions as those on whose expertise the report was based: Prevention, education, and treatment are as important as enforcement, if not primary in nature. However, reminded that the foundation of our authority is in criminal matters, we start with supply reduction and move along the continuum to the concepts of demand reduction.
B. SUPPLY REDUCTION
As an investigating body examining evidence in criminal cases, our inquiry naturally began with questions concerning the methods and operations of drug traffickers in Florida. This is generally what we learned.
Florida's heroin, the majority of which originates in Colombia, is typically transported on or in the bodies of drug smugglers known as "mules" who arrive on flights either directly from Colombia or indirectly through other locations such as Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is considered a "safe" departure point since traffickers traveling to the U.S. mainland do not have to pass through a Customs inspection or "border station" as that island is a U.S. territory. A payment to a "mule" for one delivery of 500 to 800 grams of heroin can be from $3,000 up to $10,000.
Cocaine arriving in Florida can come from Bolivia and Peru (and, less frequently, from southeast Asia via the northeastern U.S.), but the vast majority arriving in Florida comes from Colombia, and it is typically brought in loads consisting of several hundred kilograms. The loads may be flown from Colombia to islands in the Caribbean, where they are off-loaded onto what are known as "go-fast" boats and, increasingly, "junk freighters" with complicated crew quarters, cargo holds, and hulls. The go-fast boats penetrate Florida at one of the numerous harbors in our thousands of coastline miles. The freighters may travel up the Miami River to dock for several days or weeks until their crew is sure that U.S. Customs agents are no longer watching. Or the loads may be placed in otherwise legitimate cargo in large container ships, bound from any other country bordering the Atlantic or in the Caribbean for one of the seaports of this State. For those willing to risk it, the importation of cocaine can yield about $3,000 per kilogram moved.
Haitian-owned freighters, in particular, have been modified to include hidden compartments for the movement of cocaine and currency. Agents have found cocaine and currency in hollowed walls, false roofs, cargo holds, voids between decks, ballast tanks, fuel tanks, oil tanks, engine rooms, pipes, layers of metal, the keel, and hidden within the cargo itself, for example, used mattresses and other noxious items that are difficult to search. It is estimated that every Haitian-owned freighter on the Miami River at any given time has either been seized, forfeited, and re-sold at auction as a result of a cocaine seizure, or it has been the subject of intelligence that cocaine and/or currency shipments have moved on them. Twelve such vessels between November 1999 and June 2000 were found by Customs to be hauling a total of 2,727 kilograms of cocaine. It is not unusual for these freighters, once seized and forfeited by law enforcement authorities, to be sold at auction to the operators of smuggling operations aware of the intricately concealed compartments and willing to make the highest bid. Customs engages in the re-sale of these vessels in large part so that it may recoup the docking fees incurred during the forfeiture proceedings, although we should note that the agency cannot know to whom it sells the ships when third-party agents hide the owners' true identities.
Once in Florida, the distribution processes required to move massive amounts of illegal drugs must be highly organized and effective. Trucks are often used to regularly move large quantities of drugs between points in the State, and outside the State. The going rate for over-the-road distribution out of South Florida is $1,000 per kilogram of cocaine. These same traffickers will then return with the cash generated from the distribution of the drugs. Distributors routinely use secret compartments in automobiles and trucks for the transportation of contraband drugs and currency, and use a system involving pre-determined drop off sites, beepers, cell phones, and escorts traveling in separate vehicles.
Marijuana, which is generally imported from Mexico, is hauled by trucks and automobiles on the highways and back roads through the state of Texas and into the western panhandle of Florida. However, Florida also has a burgeoning cash crop in marijuana - second only to its citrus industry. Outdoor cultivation appears in forested and rural areas, while indoor "grow houses" are increasingly found throughout the State.
Methamphetamine is also imported from Mexico, California, and other western states and produced in home based laboratories that have been found throughout Florida, but with a high concentration in the west central areas of the State. Ketamine, a "club drug", is manufactured for use as a veterinary anesthesia. This and similar compounds are commercially available under regulated circumstances, but are the target of burglaries, thefts, and corruption.
The movement and laundering of the cash proceeds generated from the sales of illegal drugs is thought to be a bigger logistical problem than transporting the drugs, as the cash is significantly more bulky than its equivalent value in cocaine or heroin. Often the cash is sold at a deep discount to individuals in other countries who receive the equivalent value of their purchase price in credit from a black-market money exchange broker. This satisfies the debt owed to the manufacturer or high-level exporter of the drugs and stimulates the purchase in the U.S. of goods which are then exported to the country where credit was given. A massive "dollar-peso black market exchange" exists in Colombia which operates in this manner. Once cash is transported to the place of conversion, typically in the Miami-Dade and Broward areas, it is converted to money orders or checks, which are then deposited into domestic accounts and wired overseas or used to purchase the U.S. goods to be shipped overseas as described above. Bulk exportation of currency "as is" - in the five- and ten-dollar bills that were used to make the street purchases - is achieved by smuggling it in secret compartments in road vehicles, ship containers or cargo holds.
The Office of Drug Control estimates that 150-200 metric tons of cocaine and three metric tons of heroin arrive in Florida every year. To date, there is no reliable estimate of the amounts of marijuana or designer drugs being transported through our State, but law enforcement testimony leads us to believe that the volume is very high. Based on the testimony we received, we believe billions of narco-dollars are laundered through Florida's commercial and banking establishments every year.
It is well-documented that "Florida's drug problem is disproportionately worse than the nation's as a whole." 1999 Florida Drug Control Strategy, at 1-2. It is our belief that the law enforcement response is hampered by a significant lack of interagency cooperation, technology, resources, and manpower, and by time-consuming pre-trial depositions.
1. Florida's Seaports
The Office of Drug Control, with approval and funding from the Florida Legislature, commissioned the first-ever study of Florida's seaports to determine the risk posed by these facilities as it relates to the trafficking of narcotics. Released in September, 2000, this study examined 14 seaports including Tampa, Miami, Port Everglades, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, and Port Canaveral, and reviewed the security situation on the Miami River.
The study concluded that:
- There is no supervisory agency over all the seaports of the State
- There are no federal or state security standards that govern their operation and thus there are highly varied levels of security at the State's seaports, some quite good and some non-existent
- Only two of the 14 seaports studied have sworn security personnel on site
- No inter-company or inter-agency security forum exists for any of the seaports studied; the owners of the properties in the seaports generally rely on their tenants to provide security rather than taking responsibility for it
- Only limited background checks are conducted on employees at the docks - convicted felons, some with arrests for drug-related charges, work at the seaports
We also heard testimony that some dock workers carry firearms and that intimidation by dock workers is used as a method of avoiding detection of illegal drug activity. There is an atmosphere of fear at the Miami seaport. Dock workers have been observed blocking law enforcement officers' vehicles with cargo containers and moving equipment, sweeping multi-ton containers in the air over officers' heads, and actually dropping containers on their vehicles, including one that held a drug detection dog. We heard that this same kind of harassment was used against the members of the private entity conducting the Seaports Study. This shocking activity is designed to send a message that the rule of law is not welcomed at the seaports. Further testimony revealed that as many as 60 percent of the current dock workers at the Port of Miami have felony arrests, with half of those on drug-related charges.
Based on testimony received about the Seaports Study, its conclusions and recommendations, we believe that Florida's commercial gateways are virtually unlocked, if not wide open, to traffickers and money launderers, not to mention thieves, terrorists, and dealers in all manner of contraband. We also believe that the majority of Florida's seaports are operated in a manner that encourages unlawful behavior, rather than discouraging it. If this lack of security exists to any similar degree at Florida's airports, then the State is at even greater risk.
Therefore we recommend adoption of the security enhancements proposed by the Seaports Study, to wit:
- The creation of a "State Seaport Authority" to regulate all seaports in the State
- The creation of minimum security standards for all seaports, to include high-mast lighting, security cameras, photo identification badges, secured entrance gates, sworn security officers, fencing of adjacent rail yards, and the relocation of personally owned vehicles away from dock operations
- The creation and implementation of a security plan by the operators of each seaport
- The continued utilization of the Florida National Guard for additional security
We also recommend:
Criminal background checks on all seaport employees, and appropriate restrictions on certain employment activities for convicted felons, but especially for drug traffickers and money launderers
Limitations on the possession of firearms inside the secured areas
A comprehensive study of the level of security at all of Florida's airports
Prosecution of dock workers who assault or attempt to intimidate law enforcement officers in the execution of their duties
2. Miami River
Based on the testimony we received regarding the Miami River, we believe it serves as a free entryway for illegal drugs into our State. We believe the river should be regulated and made as secure as possible against such activity. Most disturbing to us was the testimony of law enforcement that "junk freighters" routinely dock for weeks at a time, running up docking fees in amounts entirely disproportionate to the value of their declared cargo, presumably waiting for the least law enforcement presence and observation in order to off-load their illegal cargo and take on illegal money shipments. Such traffic patterns are so thoroughly antithetical to the ordinary business of moving goods in commerce that law enforcement officials are convinced the pattern has no other cause than the illegal movement of contraband into and out of the State.
Therefore, we recommend the creation of a "Miami River Authority" to regulate the operation of the docks. We understand that the docks are privately owned and that the State must be careful to implement only such time and place restrictions as are reasonably necessary to the protection of the public.
We also urge the State to seek greater federal funding for law enforcement personnel and other necessary resources at the river to ensure routine inspections of both incoming and outgoing vessels, and we further recommend the "scrapping" of those vessels determined to be a nuisance. Money laundering on outbound vessels is as dangerous to our great State as are the inbound drugs producing the lucre; when the money is safely delivered to the owners of the shipments, they are enabled to grow, produce, and ship again.
3. Florida's Highways
Based on testimony, evidence and demonstrations we received from the Department of Transportation, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida National Guard, and as found by the Seaports Study, we believe the "intermodal transportation system" employed in Florida, where cargo containers are off-loaded from ships at the unsecured seaports and then transferred to trucks or trains at other unsecured sites, facilitates easy drug trafficking and money laundering. We further believe that additional resources must be added to the current complement of enforcement to tackle this problem.
We heard testimony that between 1995 and 1999, the Florida Highway Patrol seized 670 kilograms of cocaine and 26 kilograms of "crack" cocaine, 48,636 pounds of marijuana, and $8 million in U.S. currency from the State's highways.
Last year, the Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Carrier Compliance received $ 1.6 million for its contraband interdiction plan. The Division is currently training seven teams each consisting of a dog and two law enforcement officers. They will work the seaports and 20 weigh stations, and will set up mobile weigh stations using portable carrier scales.
The Florida Highway Patrol also employs the highly effective drug detection dogs to detect illegal substances being transported across our State's highways, but they only have 32 dogs available throughout the State and some of them are used to work special prison details.
Because we found from our own examination of the work of these detection teams that they are cost-effective, non-intrusive, and reliable, we recommend that the Legislature increase funding for the Florida Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation for their anti-drug efforts, including the purchasing, training, and maintenance of additional drug detection dogs and the provision of portable x-ray equipment and/or other detection devices.
4. Intelligence Center
Florida has a vast array of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working on the drug trafficking problem. We heard from 12 different agencies and asked questions of witnesses about the ability and tendencies of such diverse entities to work together on a common problem. The responses we received ranged from "the politically correct" to more candid answers. In the end, we felt that there are some good examples of cooperation and team-work in parts of the State, with extremely positive results, and pockets of resistance to sharing intelligence data based on a fear of sharing successful arrest statistics or, worse yet, a fear of sharing contraband forfeitures.
Based on our inquiry, we agree with law enforcement officials who proposed that there be a coordinated effort to combine all field intelligence about drug trafficking arrests, seizures, patterns of activity, undercover operations, and undercover source information. This information should be combined with data concerning money transfers required to be reported to state and federal officials, such as currency transaction reports for any cash transaction over $10,000, and suspicious activity reports. Such a center would be responsible for providing the necessary analysis for (1) identifying criminal activities, groups, and individuals; (2) "geomapping" to provide an analysis of where certain crimes are occurring and may be migrating; (3) identifying macro trends of criminal behavior; and (4) "de-confliction" (identifying where multiple agencies are unknowingly investigating, in whole or in part, the same targets).
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has submitted a proposal for such a center to the Drug Policy Advisory Council, which has recommended its creation and funding. We commend FDLE for its vision, endorse this recommendation, and suggest that it is absolutely essential to the anti-drug efforts of this State. To accomplish its purpose, the center must have the support of the highest levels of State government, and the cooperation and assistance of the federal government. More importantly, all law enforcement agencies in this State must have a stake in the operation and utilization of the work of the center.
5. Regional Coordinating Teams
Based on the evidence before us, we have concluded that there is no formalized mechanism or incentive for law enforcement agencies to work together for mutual success in the area of drug enforcement. On another front, the Legislature created in 1993 such a mechanism for violent crime reduction in Florida. The Violent Crime Council is comprised of specified law enforcement, education, victim services, medical examiner, and corrections officials. This council supervises regional coordinating teams who regularly share intelligence on violent criminal groups and administers a trust fund to defray the unanticipated costs of agencies investigating those groups. The funding is predicated on cooperation between agencies. The regional coordinating teams assist member agencies and take great pride in their mutual success. Innovative planning and cooperation are recognized and rewarded. The annual State funding is $1 million. The citizens of the State have benefited from a reduction in the violent crime rate for several years in a row. It is our opinion that cooperation between law enforcement agencies on a statewide basis is one of the many keys to this success. A recommendation coming out of the Drug Summits, supported by the Drug Policy Advisory Council, calls for an expansion of the Violent Crime Council to include narcotics trafficking and money laundering investigations, to add the Drug Control Director as a council member, and to add an additional $2 million annually into the trust fund for cooperative law enforcement efforts in the area of narcotics trafficking. We wholeheartedly support these recommendations.
6. Florida National Guard
It has come to our attention that the best kept secret in the law enforcement community is the support of the Florida National Guard. It seems to us that the Guard does so much with so little, without headlines or complaint.
The Guard currently provides exceptional, comprehensive, professional military support to law enforcement agencies and community based organizations to assist them in their fight to reduce the supply and demand for illegal drugs in this State. They provide personnel, training, and technology at little or no cost to these agencies and organizations. The Guard offers investigative case analysis, combat diver support, cargo/mail inspection, marijuana eradication support, aerial reconnaissance, and other operational support to law enforcement agencies. They offer multi-jurisdictional counter-drug task force training, as well as high school classroom drug awareness programs, community anti-drug coalition support and training programs and a Junior ROTC Summer Camp. They have assisted in the seizure of over 10,909 kilograms of cocaine, over 20,000 pounds of marijuana and over $2.7 million during the past year. The support and training they offer is unparalleled by anything we have seen in our inquiry.
The funding of the Guard by the federal government has remained relatively constant over the past four years, while the call for their services has continued to expand. The Guard currently operates on an annual State appropriation of $100,000. Based on what we have seen, we call upon Florida's representatives in Washington to increase the funding for this valuable resource in Florida's fight against narcotics traffickers. We also call upon the Legislature to increase State appropriations to the Guard for their anti-drug efforts, including the purchase and use of thermal imaging technology on aircraft surveillance to assist in the detection of marijuana "grow-houses."
7. Contraband Forfeitures
In the course of our inquiry, we learned that suspected drug traffickers and money launderers may forfeit to the government the property, vehicles, vessels, and other equipment used to facilitate their crimes, as well as the ill-gotten gains themselves. Forfeitures under State law are permitted when a preponderance of the evidence suggests that the property at issue has been used in or is the result of drug trafficking or money laundering. If a judge agrees with the law enforcement agency in this lawsuit or, as often happens, the possessor does not contest the allegations, claiming ignorance instead, then the property is ordered forfeited to the seizing agency. The proceeds must be deposited into a trust fund for law enforcement or drug abuse education and prevention programs but may not be used to meet normal operating expenses. In addition, those agencies receiving more than $15,000 in forfeiture proceeds during any fiscal year must expend or donate 15 percent or more of the forfeitures for the support or operation of one or more drug treatment, education, prevention, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, or school resource officer programs. Property forfeited to a State agency generally must be deposited into the State's general revenue fund, but certain State enforcement agencies are authorized to deposit their proceeds into their trust fund for use as permitted by law.
Based on the testimony and evidence received from seizing agencies, we believe that contraband forfeiture is a valid and essential method of preventing drug trafficking and money laundering and of disabling the trafficking organizations operating in Florida. We endorse this lawful enforcement and deterrence methodology. Moreover, we believe such financial resources should be used to fund statewide anti-drug trafficking and money laundering efforts.
To that end, we recommend that the Legislature specifically require that a significant portion of all State agency contraband forfeitures currently going into the general revenue fund and that a small portion of local law enforcement agency forfeitures be pooled together for the creation and operation of the intelligence center and the operation of the regional coordinating narcotics enforcement teams by the Violent Crime and Narcotics Council.
In addition to forfeitures, there are other sources of funding that we urge the Legislature to consider:
a. We have considered the idea of taxing the sales of illegal drugs. We are mindful that the Florida Legislature passed a law providing for a drug sales tax which the Florida Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional in 1994, as the law required an individual to incriminate himself or herself upon the filing of a return that showed income from the sale of contraband. Because the tax returns could be turned over to prosecuting authorities and used against the taxpayer to prove the illegal sales, the Court found the statute to violate the U.S. and Florida constitutions in Florida Department of Revenue v. Herre, 634 So.2d 618 (Fla. 1994). A constitutional scheme, it noted, would provide for use and derivative use immunity for the sales tax returns. In that manner, the law would capture the sales tax without requiring self-reporting of prosecutable law violations. While all of this may seem to be a legal and technical dance, it certainly has the potential to produce additional funds for the State, while taking the money away from the drug dealers.
b. The collection of minimum mandatory fines imposed in drug trafficking cases must be aggressively pursued by State authorities. The Legislature should specifically allocate resources for this purpose until it becomes a self-funding mechanism. Once collected, the money should be specifically directed toward the implementation of the Strategy.
C. DEMAND REDUCTION
Without a demand for illegal drugs, there is no market for it. Where the market dries up, the suppliers disappear. With this in mind, we explored the areas of drug treatment and prevention education and have arrived at certain conclusions regarding Florida's efforts in this regard. We offer the following suggestions for demand reduction predicated on the testimony presented to us.
1. The Courts
a. Based on the testimony of a judicial leader in Florida's drug court system, we believe the method of delivering treatment to drug addicts through the drug court system is a powerful tool that Florida must embrace in every geographic location and with great enthusiasm. Drug courts, a creation of Miami's court system, have been called the "crown jewel" of the treatment strategy, and they are widely accepted by treatment providers and judges alike as extremely effective in breaking the cycle of crime by producing lower recidivism rates.
Drug courts use the coercive power of the criminal judge to force treatment upon offenders who are arrested for non-violent, drug-related crimes. The traditional adversarial justice model is set aside for the time the offender is in drug court. The judge, serving as the leader of the treatment team, implements a system of rewards and sanctions to motivate defendants to continue their treatment. A structured program is employed that integrates the phases of stabilization, intensive treatment, and reintegration and transition back to a drug-free life. The problems of homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, illiteracy, job training, and communicable diseases are also addressed. The judge ensures continual interaction, monitoring, and evaluation to keep the offender "on track" toward the goals of continued abstinence and obeying the law. If an offender successfully completes the drug treatment program, the criminal charges are dismissed. If he or she fails, the criminal charges are re-instituted and the defendant faces incarceration.
One problematic issue with the current system is that a defendant arrested for committing a crime in one county, with residence in another, may find that a drug court does not exist in each location, or may be required to travel between the counties for treatment. Therefore we recommend that the court system move quickly to establish the drug court administrators in each county as authorized by the Legislature, and that the Legislature fully fund those offices and authorize the transfer of cases between counties for maximum effectiveness.
b. Based on the testimony we received from a judicial officer dedicated to handling civil commitments, we learned that coerced drug addiction treatment in a civil context is also available in Florida. This statutory scheme, known as the Marchman Act and contained in Chapter 397 of the Florida Statues, provides for the protective custody and involuntary submission of children and adults into residential drug treatment. It is initiated with the filing of a petition by a family member or other qualifying individuals, or upon a request by a law enforcement officer who may observe behavior attributable to substance abuse. The petition must allege that the individual to be taken into custody for treatment is a danger to herself or himself or others.
The testimony revealed that the employment of the Marchman Act is inconsistent throughout the State, nor are there Marchman courts or judicial officers in many circuits. It is believed that law enforcement officers and judges are not fully aware of the Marchman Act and its availability as a tool to stop individuals from harming themselves and others through drug abuse. Therefore we recommend that Florida's police agencies and civil judges educate themselves regarding the availability and efficacy of this approach.
c. We would be remiss if we didn't raise here a part of the Drug Control Strategy that deals with Florida's criminal discovery rules that allow for pre-trial depositions of witnesses, even those like police officers who have written extensive reports on their investigative activity. Florida is one of very few states that does so; most states and the federal system do not allow for witness depositions. Defense attorneys often use them here, as the Strategy says, "to harass the prosecution and slow down the process to an unwieldy crawl." 1999 Florida Drug Control Strategy, at 4-54. According to the Strategy, discovery depositions unnecessarily hike the costs of prosecuting cases, remove police from their regular duties, and cause police agencies to take their cases to federal authorities for prosecution. While we have not been presented with all the facts and figures on the actual cost in time and resources of this procedural matter, we have heard enough from senior law enforcement officials to cause us to urge the Legislature and the Courts to once again address the necessity for pre-trial discovery depositions in a state that has "open-file" discovery of evidence and information to the defense. We see this as an example of one of the areas where streamlining the justice process can allow us to enhance the limited resources at our disposal, which resources could be better used in education, prevention, and treatment efforts.
2. Residential Treatment
Based on the testimony from State officials and various treatment experts, we believe Florida needs more treatment beds for substance abusers. Even though $420 million was committed this year to Florida's governmental and private treatment providers, more than at any other time, we heard testimony that waiting lists are so long that funding for 400 or 500 additional treatment beds is essential for the Department of Children and Family Services alone to provide treatment to all who want it and/or need it. If the experts say it is so, then we believe it must be given great weight. We do not believe Florida should gamble that there is some margin of error in these numbers. Therefore we recommend that the Legislature provide the funding suggested by the Drug Policy Advisory Council for the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. We realize that the funding recommendation for 2001 was $12.5 million; however, we believe that this is Florida's best opportunity to make true progress in reducing the demand for drugs on a person by person, day by day basis.
Recognizing that a substantial number of criminal defendants have committed crimes because of their drug addictions, and that their incarceration for these crimes is required by law under certain circumstances, we examined the manner in which they are exposed to drug treatment and to the availability of drugs while incarcerated. We found a lack of resources for treatment while in prison and after release, and we found ready access to drugs within the prison system itself. While this raises both supply side and demand reduction issues, we have chosen to address it here because the greater harm is to the rehabilitation effort than to the protection of the public at large.
Even though the possession of any kind of drugs is illegal in prison, visitors, staff and inmates alike have been caught with drugs or conspiring to smuggle them in. We heard testimony about female visitors bringing drugs into the prisons hidden within their vaginal cavities. One of the indictments we returned this session charged an inmate's mother with conspiring to bring in an ounce of cocaine in this manner. Once the substances are brought inside the secured areas, they are then hidden in locations common to the visitors, inmates, and Department of Corrections ("DOC") personnel, for example, in a bathroom, with a "canteen" worker, or inside vending machine slots. We heard that there are waiting lists of inmates ready to purchase these drugs as they are smuggled into the prisons. Once the sellers learn that their prison cash accounts have received the correct deposit amounts or they have received in-prison favors, they then release the drugs in their possession. The sellers have much to gain: because of the increased risks and logistics involved, the value of these drugs is about three times that which they are worth outside the prison walls. Surprisingly, we learned that inmates are allowed to maintain a balance in their prison cash accounts of up to $10,000.
To address the problem of trafficking within the prison walls, DOC has employed what it calls a multi-faceted solution that includes: (1) random drug testing among the inmates (about 3 percent of the inmates are tested each week), (2) employment of narcotics detection canines, and (3) a drug interdiction unit comprised of inspectors. We heard testimony that there are only about 200 arrests per year for drug offenses in the prisons. DOC is aware of about 15 guard arrests per year for prison-related drug charges out of the 18,000 corrections officers they employ. About 90 percent of the 200 arrests are of prison visitors, who typically visit inmates during the weekend. Upon their entrance to the facility, corrections staff conduct a visual inspection of hand carried items and require the visitors to pass through a metal detector; a pat-down search is not usually conducted.
Charged with investigating these smuggling incidents are the prison inspectors employed by DOC. There are approximately 50 inspectors in five regional offices. Each of the inspectors handles about a dozen investigations per year. But we also learned that even though their actions constitute the actions of the State, the inspectors do not have the status of sworn law enforcement officers. Such a status would permit them to make arrests in the course of or upon completion of their investigations and would permit them to direct the taping of one-party consent telephone conversations, for example. In order to perform these functions now, the inspectors must call upon and wait for the local sheriff to do the job. The inspectors and others at DOC assert that this condition also contributes to a lack of respect for the inspectors' work by the inmates, who feel that the inspectors do not have the authority to compel cooperation with the investigations.
DOC has 10 canine teams available to help detect illegal drugs in the prisons, which we do not believe is adequate to maintain control over 60 major institutions, even with the occasional supplemental teams provided by the Florida Highway Patrol. In fact, their limited resources only allow DOC to conduct about one complete stem-to-stern search of each major institution per year.
Thus we do not believe the relatively low number of arrests is indicative of the level of illegal drug activity in prison but rather of a lack of authority and resources. Finally, we note with some concern that corrections officers are not being subjected to random drug testing, although Florida law provides for it according to Florida Statute 944.474.
All of this evidence leads us to believe that drug treatment inside the prison system can and is being sabotaged by easy in-house drug trafficking. Additionally, research cited by DOC indicates that treatment without after-care is tantamount to no treatment at all. Current funding levels only allow for the after care of about one-fourth to one-third of those receiving treatment in prison. It is estimated that DOC needs another $38 million to provide the in-prison treatment, after-care and transitional services to the 63 percent of DOC's 68,000 inmates who need it.
Based on the testimony of corrections officials, we strongly recommend the following: that the Legislature provide for the funding of at least one drug detection canine in each facility; that DOC inspectors be given sworn officer status; that DOC reduce the amounts that inmates can accrue in their cash accounts; that DOC implement the random drug testing program that is authorized by law; that the Legislature provide funding for alcohol and drug addiction treatment, periodic reinforcement sessions, and transitional services; and that DOC be encouraged to make the investigation and prosecution of contraband smuggling its highest investigative priority.
Finally, we come to what is probably the most important piece of the drug use reduction puzzle - the early education of Florida's school children. It cannot be emphasized enough that education is the key to the success of all of these efforts.
Based on witnesses from various State agencies, school resource programs, and the DARE program, we offer some recommendations for consideration by the education experts.
a. We believe that in order for drug education to be effective, it must be given at all grade levels. We have learned there is a strong drug education program in elementary schools that teaches children the effects of drugs and the ethic of abstinence from their use. The DARE program uses uniformed law enforcement officers to teach fifth and/or sixth graders and is employed in about 75 percent of the school districts in Florida. But we are dismayed to learn that there is no concerted continuation of these efforts into middle and high schools, where the availability of drugs becomes virtually unbounded and the risk of drug use onset skyrockets. The DARE America organization has produced a 10-day course for middle school students and a week-long course for high school students, but these courses are not in general use in the State of Florida, because of inadequate funding. Alternative programs should also be considered, for example, the Florida National Guard's drug abuse education program.
We heard about a young deputy sheriff who posed as an undercover high school student in the Central Florida area, and whose efforts to purchase illegal substances resulted in 42 arrests at two schools. We also learned about the ready availability in middle and high schools of MDMA ("ecstasy"), LSD, and marijuana. Therefore, we must recommend that education classes on the effects of these drugs be given at our middle and high schools, no matter the cost.
b. We believe a School Resource Officer ("SRO") is a valuable component of the education, as well as the enforcement effort. SROs give children someone in authority to go to when confronted with drugs or encouragement to use them. They provide a tangible symbol of the rule of law. We know from the testimony and from our own common sense that students will wait for the School Resource Officer to leave campus before they engage in their drug transactions. We learned two unsettling things: (1) there is no consistency in the provision and use of this valuable tool in schools throughout the State -- in some locales, SROs are provided by the sheriff or city police department, and in some by a pooling of resources between the school district and law enforcement, and in some locations, not at all; and (2) SROs appear to be hampered in their ability to effectively combat drug use and sales on campus, as they are assigned many other duties, such as taking reports, solving missing property cases, traffic duty, and providing after-hours protective services to students and faculty. Therefore, we recommend that every school in the State of Florida be provided with at least one full-time SRO and that they be given the charge to address drug issues in the school.
c. As with the prisons, we strongly recommend the use of canine drug detection units in each school in Florida. Detection dogs are specially selected and trained to sniff out the substances they have been taught to bring out of hiding, such as certain types of drugs and money. They can also be helpful to police in capturing or subduing fleeing or violent offenders. They are an excellent value, as their upkeep is modest compared to the service they are able to provide law enforcement: the unobtrusive, non-invasive, and fairly applied detection of contraband and crime.
d. We believe that the student-to-teacher ratio must be addressed in this State. Individualized attention to children can result in identification of those at risk of developing a desire to engage in recreational drug use and can help address substance abuse problems generally.
e. We also believe that "open campuses" and personal automobile use by students during the school day simply begs outsiders to enter with illegal intent and allows children to leave campus to commit illegal activity. Therefore, we recommend that school administrators consider establishing minimum security standards for the schools in their local districts and to make drug distribution and abuse a consideration in every decision regarding the physical setting in which children are receiving their education.
f. We also believe that children are rushed too quickly through development and into circumstances where illegal drugs are available to them. Sixth grade children who are moved into middle school settings, and ninth grade children who are moved into high school settings, are exposed to the activities of their older peers before they are ready to understand the consequences of their actions. They will be followers and will have a difficult time being leaders with such a huge age and maturity gap between them and the older students.
Therefore, we recommend consideration of the delay of a school child's entry into junior high school until the 7th grade, and the retention of 9th graders in junior high school. We believe this can bolster 6th and 9th graders' images of themselves as leaders in their schools, as well as postpone their exposure to the higher availability of illicit drugs found in high schools. Delaying the onset of "first use" is a good goal, even if to save children exposing themselves to poisons while they are still physically developing. And if it can be achieved, it portends an entire generation maturing into adulthood without drug dependency. The education system is critical to achieving this goal.
g. Finally, and more importantly than anything the education system can do for a child, it cannot be emphasized enough that parents are an essential part of the anti-drug abuse campaign. Based on what we heard, the children whose parents are not involved in the operation of the school and its programs are the children who seem to have the problems. It's the parents who do not participate in teacher-parent meetings, decision-making, and after-school programs who would benefit most from them, according to the witnesses. This suggests that increased parental involvement is evidence and is a direct result of the enforcement, at home, of the ethic and value of drug abstinence.
Therefore, we recommend that the governmental and private agencies in touch with families promote an intensive parental education program to teach parents the methods and facts that can help them prevent children from experimenting with drugs and give them a place to turn for immediate help. We further believe that each one of us must encourage and praise parental involvement in the education system, and become involved in mentoring programs to give young people the role models they sometimes lack at home. We note that the Governor is promoting mentoring programs and is encouraging State agencies to provide one hour of paid leave per week to staff members who serve as mentors. We enthusiastically endorse the Governor's Mentoring Initiative and encourage agency leaders to promote and participate in it.
5. Insurance Coverage
Based on testimony presented to us by the treatment community, we believe that the physiology of addiction is better understood and better treated today than at any other time, and yet, we have failed as a society to classify it as the medical condition that it is now understood to be by the scientists who have been studying it and making discoveries relating to it. We heard testimony that addiction is a disease -- an identifiable, measurable, treatable disease of the brain that frequently leads to deterioration of heart, lung and brain function, and eventually death. If it is a disease, we recommend that health insurance providers cover all medical costs related to drug addiction.
We learned that:
- A 1998 study by the U.S. Substance and Mental Health Services Administration ("SAMHSA") showed that health insurance premiums would only increase by about $1 per month per insured for coverage on par with other diseases
- A 1999 SAMHSA report concluded that after enactment of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which extended health insurance coverage to psychiatric treatment at the same rate as physical injury and disease, 86 percent of employers found they did not need to adjust their own contributions, because the actual difference in premiums was expected to be negligible
- A 1999 Rand Corporation study showed that it only costs $5 per person per year to extend unlimited substance addiction treatment benefits to employees of large companies
Insurance companies should cover treatment of addiction as they cover any other medical condition. The costs of doing so have been demonstrated to be very small, and the benefit to society can be tremendous: a 1997 study by the Agency for Health Care Administration concluded that Florida incurred an estimated $250.8 million in hospital charges for the treatment of illnesses caused or exacerbated by drug use. The elimination, if possible, of a substance addiction earlier rather than later results in (1) the avoidance of serious complications such as liver disease, (2) a productive citizen rather than one who is an economic drain, and (3) the avoidance of criminal behavior, which has its own quantifiable and unquantifiable costs to its victims, and the resulting costs of investigation, prosecution, and incarceration.
As a first step, we recommend that the State begin this effort in the next insurance contract for State employees, by requiring drug addiction parity in the State employees health plan contract.
D. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
In summary, we recommend:
The Legislature give the Office of Drug Control additional permanent funding for more employees
The Legislature give the Drug Control Director "budget certification" responsibility for agency compliance with Florida's Drug Control Strategy
The Legislature adopt the recommendations of the Florida Seaports Study, including the creation of a seaport regulatory agency, the adoption of statewide minimum security standards, creation and implementation of a security plan by the operators of each port, full background checks for all port employees, and the imposition of limitations on the possession of firearms inside secure port areas; and that the Legislature fund a comprehensive airport security study
The Legislature (or local government) create a Miami River Authority and regulate the operation of the docks
State authorities seek additional federal funding for a greater law enforcement presence on the Miami River
The scrapping of seized vessels to prevent resale and further use in narcotics trafficking
The Legislature increase funding for the Florida Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation's drug interdiction efforts, for such items as drug detection dogs and portable x-ray equipment
The Legislature create and fund a statewide drug trafficking and money laundering intelligence center
The Legislature expand and fund the Violent Crime Council to include narcotics trafficking and money laundering investigations
Increased state and federal funding for the Florida National Guard's anti-drug efforts
The Legislature require the specific direction of a portion of contraband forfeitures to fund the proposed intelligence center and the Violent Crime Council expansion
The Legislature resurrect and re-define the sales tax on illegal narcotics transactions
The State aggressively pursue the collection of minimum mandatory fines in drug trafficking cases and earmark the money for anti-drug efforts
The establishment of drug court administrators in each county as authorized by the Legislature
That law enforcement officers and civil judges educate themselves about the availability and efficacy of the Marchman Act, which authorizes commitment to treatment for dangerous drug abusers
The Legislature and the courts address the elimination of pre-trial discovery depositions and the redirection of the costs savings to drug abuse treatment, prevention, and education
The Legislature adopt the funding recommendation for substance abuse treatment beds proposed by the Drug Policy Advisory Council for the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Juvenile Justice
The Legislature fund at least one drug detection dog in each State correctional facility; give DOC inspectors sworn officer status; and fund alcohol and drug addiction treatment, periodic reinforcement sessions, and transitional services for prisoners
The Department of Corrections reduce the cap on amounts that inmates can accrue in their cash accounts, implement the random drug testing program authorized by law, and make the investigation and prosecution of contraband smuggling its highest investigative priority
The expansion of drug education programs beyond sixth grade in our schools
The provision of at least one full time School Resource Officer in each school, with the responsibility of addressing drug issues
The immediate availability of drug detection dogs for schools
Consideration of delay of a school child's entry into junior high until the seventh grade and the retention of ninth graders in junior high
Further promotion by government agencies and private entities of parental drug awareness education and student mentoring programs
A pilot program for drug addiction parity in health insurance coverage for State employees
We were surprised by the similarity of the thinking in our own group, as well as among the witnesses, in this one respect: we believe education, prevention, and treatment are the cornerstones of this effort. We believe that resources, accountability, and cooperation are the keys to success. As we end our inquiry and issue this report, we are optimistic that Florida's government officials, private and commercial entities, and ordinary citizens will answer this call. If the officials do not, and if the taxpayers do not support them, we will never win this war.
THIS REPORT IS RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED to the Honorable Belvin Perry, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury, this _____ day of November, 2000.
ROLAND P. PICCONE
Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida
I, MELANIE ANN HINES, Statewide Prosecutor and Legal Adviser, Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this report on this _____ day of November, 2000.
MELANIE ANN HINES
Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida
I, OSCAR GELPI, Special Counsel and Assistant Legal Adviser, Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this report on this _____ day of November, 2000.
Assistant Legal Adviser
I, RICHARD B. BOGLE, Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor and Assistant Legal Adviser, Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this report on this _____ day of November, 2000.
RICHARD B. BOGLE
Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor
Assistant Legal Adviser
I, CAROL J. BREECE, Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor and Assistant Legal Adviser, Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this report on this _____ day of November, 2000.
CAROL J. BREECE
Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor
Assistant Legal Adviser
This Report is ordered sealed until the requirements of Section 905.28, Florida Statutes, have been met. Upon written motion of the Legal Adviser, the Court will address the issue of publication. Further, upon the Legal Adviser's oral motion for disclosure for the purposes of furthering justice, the Legal Adviser is authorized to disclose the testimony and proceedings recounted in the foregoing document in furtherance of the criminal investigative and civil administrative responsibilities of the Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury.
Belvin Perry, Jr.
Fifteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida