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COUNTYWIDE : Gallegly Seeks U.S. Funds in Drug Fight

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) on Thursday asked the U.S. Justice Department to help finance Ventura County’s proposed crackdown on minor drug offenses, including jailing recreational drug users in a tent city.

In a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Richard Thornburgh, the congressman asked for a portion of the department’s $85-million discretionary fund to pay for what he called “a forward-looking, comprehensive and highly innovative drug-control strategy for the county.”

Last month, Ventura County Sheriff John V. Gillespie and Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury unveiled their plan to fight the war on drugs by clamping down on the demand created by all drug users.

As part of the stepped-up enforcement of drug possession laws, Gillespie proposed jailing inmates in tents on a military base so as not to increase crowding at the county jail.

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Gillespie is negotiating with the Port Hueneme Naval Construction Battalion Center to place tents here. Inmates would be assigned to work on the base or on public land and to attend substance-abuses classes.

John Frith, Gallegly’s press secretary, said the congressman strongly supports the proposal and has requested his staff search for possible sources of federal dollars. “When we discovered this fund was available, we decided to see if it could be a possible source of funding,” he said.

Gillespie has provided a detailed summary of the program to Gerald Regier, acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, which administers the $85-million grant program. Regier could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“The Ventura County Drug Control strategy is very similar to the President’s National Drug Control Strategy in that it provides a unified, integrated and comprehensive approach,” Gallegly wrote in his letter to Thornburgh.

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He said he hoped that the attorney general will support the effort so it could serve as a model program of how to fight the drug problem at a local level.


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