Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | July 30, 2009

In the aftermath of a frontal assault on Mexico’s Drug Cartels by President Calderon, Mexico is now stuck in an a violent, but predictable war with the cartels. Far from being weakened by the assault, the powerful cartels are now using their wealth and power to expand into Central America. How many innocent people need to die before we admit that law enforcement is not the answer to the drug war?

Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | April 14, 2009

American Violet

Have you seen the movie American Violet yet? If so, what did you think about it?

Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | April 6, 2009

Project Rethink on The Willis Johnson Show

Starting Monday, April 6 and continuing on each alternating Monday, I will be on the Willis Johnson Show at 6:45 a.m.

I will be commenting on the failures of the War on Drugs and proposing changes to our drug policy that support public safety and public health.

If you would like to respond to my commentary, click on “comment” below, then click on “logged in” to log in and leave a comment.

Thank you!…Joy Strickland

Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | March 30, 2009

Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has proposed legislation that would create a commission to look into the failures of our justice system and explore how we can reshape our nation’s drug policy. Sound familiar?  

It should.  Sen. Webb’s legislation is very similar to  the bill that Project RETHINK has proposed in Texas: House Bill 1812.

There is an outstanding article in Sunday’s Parade Magazine on the legislation, which makes many of the points that you have heard here from  Project RETHINK. Sen. Webb was also on the Dianne Rheem Show this morning (3/30/09). I encourage you to read the article (it’s not very long) and go to our blog and comment. Here’s the link to the article:

                Question:  What do you think about Sen. Webb’s proposal?


Joy Strickland




Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | March 16, 2009

When I began to study the War on Drugs, I was struck by the glaring disparities in law enforcement based on race and class. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have all used illegal drugs. Although Clinton claimed that he “did not to inhale”, at least President Obama was honest enough to say that inhaling “was the whole idea”. These missteps have been collectively referred to as youthful indiscretions, and I would be inclined to agree were it not for the fact that thousands of Texas inmates are serving time for precisely the same behavior.


Question: What does it say about our justice system that some people go to prison for drug possession while others go on Oprah, or simply go on with their lives? 

Joy Strickland

Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | June 23, 2008

How Has Violence Affected My Life? By Valencia King

My first thought, when I considered this question, was that violence had not affected my life in any meaningful way.  However, the more I thought about it, I could see that violence has affected my life and the lives of those in my generation in many ways.  We suffer because of increased crime and violence against kids.  Violence has affected the way we live, play and go about our daily lives.  Teenagers in the generation before us could play outside all day as long as they made it home before the street lights came on.  But my generation can’t enjoy that kind of freedom because of violence.  We don’t play outside the way our parents did.  We don’t hang out at the malls, movies, and parks the way our parents did.   We have learned to entertain ourselves at home and communicate through the new forms of media.  Increased violence has forever changed the way we live.  My grandfather tells me that they did not even have to lock their doors back in the day.  My generation will never know what that’s like, especially those of us who live in the city.  Big or small, violence affects us all.


In my opinion violence happens because people don’t have answers.  Sometimes, I think, people in desperate situations feel they don’t have anywhere to turn for help and they give up. I think people who can’t find the answers, turn to violence in frustration.  My second grade teacher, Mrs. Casterner, once said, “Violence is not the answer. Getting help is.” I agree. 


As a teenager I know that we need to have a sense of identity and we need attention. It could be that people who feel lost and forgotten may turn to violence.  My mother says, “A child will get the attention he or she needs, be it good or bad attention.”  If a kid feels that no one cares him and he’s not getting the attention he needs, he may do stupid things, not really thinking of the consequences until it’s too late.  And drugs can be a dangerous part of violence because they create a false sense of reality.  Most teenagers say that they turned to drugs because it made them forget about the problems for which they did not have answers.


If I have a friend who needs help or a shoulder to cry on, then I need to be there.  If a friend tells me that she is going to commit a crime or an act of violence, then I should try to talk her out of it and see that she gets help.  I should try to help her get the answers she seeks and show her that I care. 


The biggest way that we can all help is by talking to our friends about how violence affects us. Then they can tell their friends and soon the whole world will be talking about how violence is not the answer.  Remember, big or small, violence affects us all.  


Violence is not the answer

It is not the key

Violence does not open doors

 It only hurts you and me

Then what?

You did the crime, now you have to do the time

All for what?

You were too afraid to turn the other cheek

To afraid to ask for the help you seek


Violence is not the answer

You have options; you have choices

Use your head

Think before you leap

Don’t do something you will regret

Don’t feed into the madness

We all have problems

It’s how we solve them that makes us unique


Violence is not the answer

Help is what you seek

Stop the violence; be unique


Big or small, violence affects us all.

Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | April 22, 2008

Rethinking Our Drug Laws

By Joy Strickland, CEO

Mothers Against Teen Violence


As a violence preveniton advocate, I believe that every child deserves a safe and supportive home, school and community. My organization is one among many across America doing all that we can with limited resources, to prevent violence in our communities.  Prevention strategies such as mentoring and conflict resolution are effective and necessary, but they are only part of the solution. Personal responsibility must be balanced and supported by a rational and effective national drug policy.

     Enacted during the Nixon administration nearly forty years ago, the so-called War on Drugs was designed to reduce supply and diminish demand for certain illegal drugs deemed harmful or undesirable by the United States government. While the motivation may be laudable, the drug war has never worked as intended and it can be argued that it has had unintended consequences, undermining the health and safety of our citizens, especially our children.

     Federal spending on the drug war totalled $1.65 billion in 1982. According to the U.S. government, the combined cost of drug war execution plus adjudication and incarceration totaled $57.5 billion in 2005. Since the drug war began, we have not only seen an increase in supply and demand for illegal drugs, but we have also witnessed an increase in related crime and incarceration rates. And innocent victims—law abiding citizens—have been the collatoral damage of turf wars waged by rival gangs in many urban communities.

     In 1973, there were 328,670 arrests logged in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) for drug law violations. In 2006, that number rose to 1,889,810 of which 82.5% (1,559,093) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 17.5% (330,717) were for the sale or manufacture of a drug, 43.9 per cent were for marijuana, and 39% were for marijuana possession alone, shattering the myth that the drug war primarily targets drug smugglers and king pins. We cannot separate the rise of the prison industrial complex from our outdated an irrational drug laws.

     In 2005 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that nationwide, over 800,000 adolescents ages 12–17 sold illegal drugs during the 12 months preceding the survey. In a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 25.4% of students had been offered, sold, or given an illegal drug by someone on school property.

     Despite over $7 billion spent annually towards arresting and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people across the country for marijuana offenses,  in 2005 the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana “easy to obtain.” That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys.

     By some estimates as many as 250,000 people die every year from the proper use of prescription drugs. I am not aware of one signle death directly caused by marijuana. Furthermore, we pay $25,000 per year to send a drug user to prison where he will likely have access to the same drugs for which he as been incarcerated.

     If we can’t keep drugs out of prisons, it is irrational to expect that we can keep them off our streets. It is equally irrational to lock up an individual because of what he chooses to put in his own body.

     Drug addiction is not a moral issue. It is a medical problem requiring medical intervention. But if news reports are any indication, it is easy to believe that the rich and famous go to rehab for illegal drug use while the poor go to jail. This disparity is the real moral issue, serving to undermine respect for our laws.

     Judge James P. Gray asserts in his book How Our Drug Laws Have Failed, that in order for the war on drugs to be successful, the law of supply and demand would have to be repealed. People who want controlled substances will find a way to get them. And as long as there is sufficient demand, someone will find a way to meet the demand. The drug war keeps the prices for the targeted substances artificially high; assuring that drug trafficking remains an incredibly profitable venture. Due to the fantastic sums of money flowing from the illegal drug trade, elected officials, police officers and prison guards (to name a few) have been known to fall prey to drug abuse and trafficking.

     I have never used illegal drugs, nor do I advocate their use. But I believe the time has come to change these laws and policies because the evidence supports the fact that our drug laws have failed us. These laws have not reduced demand and cannot reduce supply enough to make a dent in drug trafficking. The substances targeted by the drug war need to be decriminalized and controlled. We need to spend our resources on prevention, education, and treatment—strategies that actually work.

     Parents are right to be concerned about the message decriminalization would send to our children. I would say that a multimedia campaign, unprecedented in scope and based on fact, not fiction, would be a necessary component of legalization. But what message are we sending by continuing the status quo? Decriminalizing and controlling illegal drugs would send a very strong and positive message to our children: We don’t want our children faced with the same powerful temptations that many adults in authority have been powerless to resist. Instead, we want to remove the incredible financial incentives to sell these drugs to our children or recruit them into drug trafficking. We don’t want our children to die as innocent victims of gang violence. We want all nonviolent drug abusers, regardless of class or race, to have equal access to rehabilitation programs. And finally, we don’t want our tax dollars spent enforcing ineffectual  policies that undermine our faith in our nation’s laws.
























Posted by: Mothers Against Teen Violence | April 22, 2008

A Survivor’s Story

By Carlene Strickland

(not related to Joy Strickland)


On the morning of Saturday, August 19, 2006 my son Stephon left home headed for the barbershop.  After getting a haircut, he stopped by a friend’s house on our street to deliver a business card for a job reference. From what I understand, Stephon’s friend and four other boys had recently committed a robbery and a dispute arose about the money. The four boys felt they had been cheated out of their fair share. My son arrived at the house with no knowledge of what was going on. When the four boys showed up with guns and kicked the door in, I can only image how shocked he must have been. His friend escaped and ran for his life, but my son was shot and killed.


There is no way to explain the pain and devastation of losing a child. For months, all I could do was cry. My son’s death was absolutely senseless. It was a mistake! I simply could not cope with what had happened. I’m sure that I was completely depressed for at least a year. I spent an enormous amount of time talking to my sister. And a good friend gave me some literature on grief and loss, which I found very helpful.


Eventually I sought the help of a psychiatrist to work though grief, which I had not dealt with for years. You see, seven years before I lost my son I was in a near fatal automobile accident and hospitalized for eleven months.  It is truly a miracle that I survived. As a result of the accident, I am a quadriplegic. I still remember how devastated my son was to see me in a wheelchair. He was 13 then. Prior to my accident, I was a busy, vibrant working mother and I was overwhelmed by the very idea of living my life from a wheelchair.


With a lot of love and prayer, I managed to persevere. I was determined to help Stephon deal with the issues associated with having a newly disabled parent. I was vigilant about his self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. I encouraged him to grieve the loss of is old mom and celebrate the new one. It was a daily challenge to stay involved with teaches and keep Stephon motivated about his school work. But I managed to get though it. When he graduated from high school, my family and I were so proud of him. Thinking back, I was so overwhelmed and so concerned about my son that I didn’t see to my own healing. When he was killed, it was clear to me that I not only needed to grieve his death, but I also needed to deal with everything else I had lost.


I still have days when it seems like Stephon has just died and grief covers me like a dark cloud. At those times I find it helpful to bow my head in prayer and think about what I have to be thankful for: I had my son for twenty wonderful years; I didn’t lose my life in that automobile accident; I have the love and support of my family; And my faith in God continues to sustain me. Despite everything that has happened I know that God is good.


The four boys accused of killing Stephon have finally been arrested and charged with capital murder. Bond for each has been set at $1 million. A trial has been scheduled for May 2008. Although I will have family and friends at the trial, I have decided not attend


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