Pubdate: Thu, 14 Feb 2002
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2002 The Des Moines Register.
Author: James B. Anfinson


In his Feb. 3 column, " "Reform" Should Keep Criminals in Jail, Not Let 
Them Out," David Yepsen writes that sentencing reform is a bad idea.

Iowa's incarceration rate has more than doubled since 1990.

According to Yepsen's logic, Iowans should be half as likely to be 
victimized by crime today as in 1990. I don't think so.

Iowa was a safe place in 1990, and it is a safe place in 2002. Minnesota's 
incarceration rate is less than half of Iowa's, and it's hardly the crime 
capital of the nation.

Yepsen advocates locking more people up to bring us closer to the national 

Is this a goal we want to strive for? He thinks penalties for dealing 
"white drugs" ought to be increased to make them equal to penalties for 
dealing "African-American drugs."

Why not admit the war on drugs has been an abject failure, and enact a 
policy that emphasizes treatment instead of incarceration?

Iowa's prisons are at 120 percent capacity. Yepsen believes we should spend 
money to build more prisons. Gee, I thought just liberals were tax and spend.

Relatively recently enacted one-size-fits-all mandatory sentences and 
mandatory minimums, as well as the war on drugs, have all contributed to 
Iowa's prison-population explosion.

More prisons would be bad fiscal policy. Limited resources would be better 
spent on programs to help inmates and ex-convicts avoid reoffending.

Rehabilitation is not a dirty word. Iowa needs sensible sentencing and 
parole policies, not more prisons.

James B. Anfinson

Des Moines
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