Pubdate: Tue, 11 Jan 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Author: Robert Stoesen


It is disheartening to learn that D.C. prosecutors are urging tougher
penalties for nonviolent marijuana violations at a time when legislators
and the public are on the verge of recognizing the failure of our punitive
war on drugs and of mandatory minimum sentences ["Marijuana Laws in
District Called Lax," Metro, Dec. 29].

Draconian punishments for nonviolent offenders will do nothing to alleviate
the problems the U.S. Attorney's Office maintains it is addressing.
Instead, taxpayers will bear the continued burden of supporting a swelling
population of nonviolent prison inmates and the contingent costs associated
with those inmates' release back into the community.

The case of Janice L. Landell, cited in the story, was a good example of
the system working well. Although the defendant was convicted, the court
was able to use its discretion in imposing an appropriate sentence.

We should not tie judges' hands with more mandatory sentences any more than
we should craft legislation to create more felons in an attempt to solve
social problems for which the criminal justice system has demonstrated few,
if any, ready solutions. If we do, we are bound to fail yet again.

Robert Stoesen, Washington
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