A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

HOW $20 IN CRACK LED TO FIFTY YEARS IN PRISON

On August 12, Louis Bernard Harper was sentenced to fifty years in prison. An unemployed black resident of South Phoenix, Harper had sold a single $20 rock of crack to undercover police officers.

It was his first drug offense.
The White House, as well as then- drug czar William Edward Bennett, have cited Phoenix's Demand Reduction Task Force program as the nation's best example of how to win President George Bush's War on Drugs.

The Demand Reduction Task Force pushes a bare-knuckle image with the slogan, "Do Drugs. Do Time." In practice, the "time" referred to is a single night in jail after your arrest. For those who qualify, the meat and potatoes of the program is the TASC treatment center, essentially a series of expensive seminars.

Putting aside the martial rhetoric, Do Drugs/Do Time is, in actuality, based upon an alternative to incarceration: classroom instruction.

Harper was never offered the opportunity to enroll. Instead he was slapped with a stiffer sentence than that of many killers in Arizona.

If Harper's sentence appears harsh-- the judge described the 25-year-old as "cocky"--the reality in Phoenix is that almost all small-time peddlers of crack who are caught will pull significant jail time. None of them will be allowed anywhere near the Do Drugs/Do Time program.

Ironically, the program championed across America as the cure to this nation's struggle against crack has virtually nothing at all to do with this insidious drug.

Although President Bush waved a plastic bag of crack and labeled it the enemy during his televised declaration of war, the Do Drugs/Do Time approach has graduated only one crack user during the almost two years of its existence.

The overwhelming majority of people who finish the Do Drugs/Do Time program are middle-class marijuana smokers or cocaine-powder abusers.

As waged in Arizona, the War on Drugs puts those arrested with crack in prison.

The double standard of this judicial apartheid is underscored by the very men who administer the Demand Reduction Tack Force: Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley and Phoenix Police Chief Ruben Ortega.

At the very time that County Attorney Romley's office prosecuted Harper for the sale of a $20 rock, Romley himself drew profits from a hidden interest in Club 902, the Valley's most notorious outlet for crack sales. Police Chief Ortega refused to take the steps required by law to shut down his colleague's nightclub.

BILLIE MOORE IS the mother of six children, one of whom is Louis Harper. She moved her family here from Texas in 1968.

"At first," says Moore, "I didn't like it. My mother and sister were here though. When I was in Austin with my kids, it was so hard to get someone to watch my children when I worked. Out here, I figured my mom and my sister might watch 'em." For the past fifteen years, she has lived in the same house in South Phoenix and she has worked.

Today, at the age of 53, Moore still works. In addition to her job as a janitor at Sky Harbor International Airport, she oversees five foster kids. Altogether that makes eleven children who've come under her eye.

"Louis wasn't no bad kid, not to me," says Moore. "But I don't care how you raise your child, there's always someone else to show them something different." Though he moved out years ago, Moore's living room contains many photos of Louis, as well as numerous pictures of tykes and family portraits. An inflated balloon reads, "You're the Greatest," and on the walls, above a piano, plaster molds of singing fruit demonstrate the craft of young hands.

As she sits in the living room with her husband, a teenage girl works on Moore's hair. Her grandchild Squeaky approaches a white visitor, touches the stranger's skin and smiles broadly in wonder.

Though Squeaky is growing up in one of the few black enclaves in Phoenix, the visitor is obviously not the first white man he has seen.

On June 11, 1989, a squad of police officers raided the Moore residence.
"They put guns right in my face. They made me lie down on the floor and face the wall. They handcuffed my husband Jessie. All five of my foster kids were here and my grandchild. They were in here two hours and thirty minutes. They brought the dog in. They still didn't find nothing."

The police were searching for crack.
After the search proved fruitless, the police then called Child Protective Services and informed the state agency that Billie Moore's foster kids were underfed and dirty.

She is not so much mad at the raid as she is frustrated. Though the cops asked her about Louis, Moore figures the police just had the wrong address. The building next door to hers used to be a crack house, and more than once she's called the cops herself to chase the young men that used to hang out in front of her home.

Five weeks later, on July 18, 1989, two undercover police officers slowed their unmarked vehicle as they cruised through the 2000 block of East Nancy Lane in South Phoenix. They slowed down just a block away from Moore's home. Dressed in tee shirts and jeans, the two cops looked like anyone else who might have been hoping to score.

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