Monthly Archives: April 2011

On Saturday, dispose of those dust-gathering drugs

Those bottles of old medications sitting inside your medicine cabinet aren’t just going nowhere. There’s a good chance that, over time, they’ll fall into the wrong hands — perhaps a thief’s, maybe a snooping neighbor’s, or even your child’s.

But throwing them in the trash isn’t a great alternative, as someone could still get their hands on them. And flushing them down the toilet, it turns out, isn’t good for marine life.

So what to do? Well, this Saturday’s your best bet to get rid of them.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s “Take-Back” program is pretty simple: drop off your old prescription drugs free of charge between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.You can do so at either the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office’s mall location or at the Port Orchard Police Department in city hall.

Of course, you can always drop off old drugs at the Bainbridge Island Police Department or the Mason County Fire District 2 station should Saturday not work for you.

This is only the DEA’s second-ever drug take back event, clearly back by popular demand:  Last September, Americans turned in over 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs in four hours. In Washington, 4.5 tons of old prescriptions were turned in.

If the Kitsap locations don’t work for you, try searching for other spots here.

For more, here’s the news release from the DEA:

Pharmaceutical drugs can be as dangerous as street drugs.  The majority of teenagers get pharmaceuticals from family and friends – and the home medicine cabinet.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its community partners throughout Washington will provide to the public a safe, free and anonymous way to rid their homes of potentially dangerous prescription drugs on Saturday, April 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

This is the second DEA led nation-wide prescription drug “Take-Back” program that seeks to prevent increased pill abuse and theft.  Last September, Americans turned in over 242,000 pounds – 121 tons- of prescription drugs at nearly 4100 sites operated by more than 3,000 of the DEA’s state and local law enforcement partners. In less than four hours, Washington residents turned in nearly 4.5 tons of medicine.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high–more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“Taking the time to clean out your medicine cabinet can be a matter of life and death,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Thomas.  “The Prescription Drug Take Back program provides a safe way to dispose of unused and expired medication that can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.  DEA and its partners are committed to keeping our communities safe.”

Collection sites in every local community can be found by going to and clicking on the “Got Drugs?” banner at the top of the home page, which connects to a database that the public can search by zip code, city or county.  Additionally, the public can call 1-800-882-9539.

Lawsuit: North Kitsap grocery store ‘knew of the danger’ motorized cart driver posed

A North Kitsap grocery store “knew of the danger” a motorized cart driver posed when the driver hit a woman putting groceries into her car, a plaintiff alleges in a March lawsuit filed in Kitsap County Superior Court.

The woman struck by the motorized cart driver is suing the grocery store and the cart’s driver, who has since died. The woman claims that on Nov. 17, 2010, she had “just placed a few items into her cart” when the cart driver hit her, pinning her between the cart and her own shopping cart. She apparently suffered injuries to her hops hips, neck, right wrist and left leg.

The grocery store bears fault, the plaintiff says, because the cart’s driver “had previously injured one of the Defendant’s employees within the last year,” by hitting her with a cart.

The plaintiff is asked for damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest and other relief “the court deems just and equitable.”

On felons’ likelihood of going back to prison, there’s good news and bad news

Anyone interested in how often felons return to prison after doing time should give a thorough reading to a report released last week by The Pew Center on the States.

The results for Washington state aren’t particularly encouraging on their face: while 32.8 percent of offenders went back to prison between 1999 and 2002, 42.9 percent made a return behind bars between 2004 and 2007. However, it depends on how you read the numbers, corrections officials here say.

Washington houses about 17,000 offenders in 12 prisons around the state. Seventy percent of inmates are in for a violent crime, according to the Department of Corrections.

Corrections officials say the state would have a lower recidivism rate if we incarcerated more low-level felons, such as drug offenders. But the state has chosen to save money instead of locking them up.

“We focus our resources on the state’s highest-risk offenders,” said DOC secretary Eldon Vail in a news release. “Our recidivism rate would be even lower if we incarcerated more low-risk offenders, but that’s not what’s best for public safety.”

The state’s Department of Corrections focused in on the changes from 1999 to 2004, which showed a decline in recidivism.  Here’s the news release:

OLYMPIA — A study conducted by the Pew Center on the States found that fewer offenders in Washington return to prison after they complete their sentence. It also found that more Washington offenders who are supervised in the community are placed into custody when they violate the terms of their supervision.

“Both trend lines are going in the right direction for public safety,” said Eldon Vail, Secretary of the Department of Corrections. “The Pew study reinforces what other studies have shown, which is that the work we’ve done in Washington to reduce recidivism in prisons is paying off.”

The study, titled “State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons,” found that between 1999 and 2004 the rate at which offenders in Washington return to prison for committing a new felony within three years declined from 27 percent to 23 percent. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy defines recidivism differently than Pew does, but both show the trend line for recidivism in Washington is on the decline.

“What’s interesting here is that the recidivism rate declined even as the offender population became higher risk to commit a new crime,” Vail said. “It shows that the work our staff has done to prepare offenders to be successful once they complete their prison sentence is making a difference.”

Washington ranks 42nd in the nation for incarceration, meaning it confines a relatively small number of people. About 70 percent of offenders in Washington prisons are serving time for a violent crime. About half of the remaining 30 percent have previously been convicted of a violent crime.

“We focus our resources on the state’s highest-risk offenders,” Vail said. “Our recidivism rate would be even lower if we incarcerated more low-risk offenders, but that’s not what’s best for public safety.”

The Pew study notes a national trend of increased incarceration over the past 30 years, but Washington did not follow the national trend. Due in large part to sentencing alternatives for drug offenders and guidance from the state Sentencing Guideline Commission, Washington’s prison population did not increase at the same rate as most other states.

Washington currently houses about 17,000 offenders in 12 prisons. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has estimated that Washington’s prison population would be about 25,000 today had if it had kept up with the national incarceration trend.

“The prison population in our state didn’t soar along with the rest of the nation because our lawmakers passed laws that made the public safer, not laws that only put more people in prison,” Vail said.

Prisons Director Bernie Warner noted the recommendations in the Pew study – measuring and rewarding progress, beginning reentry efforts on an offender’s first day in prison and optimizing supervision resources – are actions that Washington has taken for years.

“We’ve known for years that focusing on reentry makes the public safer,” Warner said. “That’s why we’ve made it such a priority in our agency.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of offenders who are confined for violating the terms of their community supervision increased from 6 percent to 19 percent. That is due in large part to a state law that went into effect in 2000 that created a hearing process led by the Department of Corrections so that offenders would not have to go back through the courts when they are accused of violations.

“The purpose of that law was to help us hold offenders more accountable for their actions while they are on are community supervision, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Anmarie Aylward, Assistant Secretary of the Community Corrections Division.

Legislature passes law to prohibit ‘motorcycle profiling’

These days, the emails coming out of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office list scores of bills that have made it through our state’s democratic process and are ready for the governor’s signature.

Most of the bills receive little fanfare, if any. I’ve been keeping an eye on them, however, and wanted to share one I found particularly interesting: Engrossed Senate Bill 5242. The bill ends the (possible or perceived) practice of “motorcycle profiling.”

More from the bill’s legislative report:

“Local law enforcement agencies must add a statement condemning motorcycle profiling to existing policies regarding profiling.

“‘Motorcycle profilin’ is defined as the illegal use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest, or search a person or vehicle with or without legal basis under the United States Constitution or the Washington Constitution.”

The bill made it to Gregoire’s desk without a single lawmaker voting against it.

Salt Lake Tribune Follows up Walmart Gun Origin Story

The Salt Lake Tribune published Monday a followup to the story we wrote regarding the origin of the gun used by a Utah man at the Port Orchard Walmart in January.

From reporter Nate Carlisle’s story:

The sale of a gun used by a felon to kill a 13-year-old Utah girl and wound two sheriff’s deputies in Washington state earlier this year highlights the ambiguities associated with private firearms transactions.

Anthony A. Martinez already had at least three felony convictions when he purchased the .40-caliber Glock from a former Utah police cadet, according to Utah court records and documents released by prosecutors in Kitsap, Wash.

The felonies prevented Martinez from buying a gun from a licensed dealer. But the law gets trickier when there’s a transaction between two individuals.

Private parties selling guns are not required to conduct a background check on the buyer. But if the seller knows the buyer is prohibited from possessing a firearm, or reasonably should know, then the seller just committed a felony under federal law.

There is no evidence the sale to Martinez was illegal, nor was there evidence anyone was investigating.

Carlisle also attempted to contact the man who bought the gun originally and the man who sold it to Martinez. But neither attempt was successful.