Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2003
Source: Ada Evening News, The (OK)
Copyright: 2003 The Ada Evening News
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


The Tulsa World on prison sentences:

The Oklahoma Sentencing Commission should give serious consideration to a
proposal by state prosecutors to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in
exchange for reclassification of other crimes.

Considering the number of inmates in the state penal system - more than
22,000 - the plan could be a fair trade.

District Attorneys Council President Rob Wallace received a lukewarm
reception when he laid out a proposal to the sentencing commission that
would abolish mandatory minimums if drug distribution and trafficking were
made violent crimes.

Elimination of mandatory minimum sentences wouldn't apply to habitual or
violent offenders.

Some commission members justifiably are concerned that classifying
distribution and trafficking as violent crimes would prevent those convicted
from receiving treatment.

Commission member Ged Wright said automatically locking up manufacturers
won't fix the drug problem because some offenders may need treatment. Wright
makes a good point.

Almost all drug offenders, who account for a huge portion of the prison
population, eventually will return to the community. While it's not a
guarantee, treatment could help reduce recidivism and those offenders locked
up for long periods should also receive treatment.

On another front, Tulsa Rep. Lucky Lamons argues that Tulsa should get more
assistant prosecutors to handle drug courts.

District attorneys support increased use of drug courts and community
sentencing, but say they need more staff. They propose giving each of the 27
district attorneys a new assistant, with Tulsa and Oklahoma counties each
getting an extra.

If there's money to hire 29 new prosecutors then the powers-that-be should
certainly look at giving Tulsa and Oklahoma counties more than two new
assistants apiece. All jurisdictions are not created equal. There's no
question that the urban areas desperately need more manpower to handle the
drug courts than rural areas.
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