Pubdate: Fri, 20 Dec 2002
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Contact:  2002 Detroit Free Press
Author: F. Martin Tieber
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


I applaud your editorial welcoming changes to Michigan's draconian mandatory
minimum drug laws ("Drug Fight: Engler can untie judges' hands with flexible
laws," Dec. 18). For nearly a quarter of a century, as director of the
Lansing office of the State Appellate Defender, I fought a generally losing
battle against the racially biased war on drugs and the outrageous prison
expansion this war fueled. 

As I enter private practice, I hope to remain active in the ongoing effort
to reduce this state's appetite for incarceration. The revisions discussed
in your editorial are a testament to the fact that a fiscal crisis does have
its uses. 

State Rep. Bill McConico, D-Detroit, should be congratulated for maintaining
this effort against long odds. And the bipartisan group in the Legislature
that sent these reforms to the governor, most notably Senate Judiciary Chair
Bill Van Regenmorter, R-Hudsonville, should be applauded as well. The fact
that the prosecutor's association supported increased sentencing discretion
for judges was critical to this effort. 

The amendments recently passed, assuming they are signed by the governor,
should help to curb this state's penchant for needlessly placing thousands
who do not need it in expensive high-security institutions. However,
application to those currently serving lengthy mandatory sentences for drug
crimes will depend on the parole board. Over the last decade, the board has
become increasingly rigid. 

I would urge the incoming administration to begin its examination of this
state's criminal justice system with a review of the practices and policies
of the parole board. 

F. Martin Tieber, President

Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan

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