Betty Ford Center, Majority of Congressional Black Caucus, Civil Rights and Public Health Groups All Urge Senate to Re-Think John Walters as Drug Czar

Press Release March 24, 2011
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 x 1383 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916

President Bush’s nominee for drug czar, John Walters, continues to come under attack from a variety of camps as he heads into his Senate confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Wednesday, October 10th.

In the latest blows to Bush’s embattled nominee, the Betty Ford Center yesterday issued a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating: “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. Now, more than ever, with increased public criticism of U.S. drug policies that rely heavily on interdiction and criminal justice solutions to the drug problem, we need a director with an unshakable conviction in strategies to reduce the demand for drugs in this country.”

Also yesterday, twenty-one African American Members of Congress (over half of the Congressional Black Caucus) have signed a statement urging the Senate to reject Walters. Signatories include Representative John Conyers – Congress’s senior African American Member and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has re-authorization authority over the drug czar’s office.

The statement from the CBC declares that Walters’ “views on race and crime make him unfit for a position that requires sensitivity to racial fairness” and that Walters “is both woefully ill informed on the facts of the day and insensitive to the needs of the African American community.”

These two letters are only the latest in a series of broad-based criticisms of John Walters:

“At a time when our nation most needs leaders who can bring the American people together, John Walters is too divisive, too insensitive, and too extreme,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director for the Lindesmith Center – Drug Policy Foundation. “Walters not only opposes reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, but denies that they even exist. His lack of commitment to a drug policy based on science and public health approach is out of step with the nation.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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