Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jan 2005
Source: Journal Times, The (Racine, WI)
Copyright: 2005 The Journal Times
Author: Stephen Heath
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Your editorial "High court puts judge back in judgment" raises valid 
concerns about the need for Congress to exercise prudence as they examine 
federal sentencing guidelines in the wake of the most recent Supreme Court 

At the same time, Congress should give careful reconsideration to the 
overall justification for such sentences, especially as applied to 
low-level drug offenders.

Drug abuse has its roots in a combination of physical, mental and spiritual 
problems. None of these are addressed by taking the offender and caging 
them in a federal prison for years - or in the case of many mandatory 
minimum sentences - decades.

And despite the feds having jailed over one million such offenders over the 
past 20 years, the demand for illicit drugs and the illegal trade that 
feeds it remain a steady constant.

Stern sentencing is likely worthy for those criminals who pose a clear and 
demonstrable threat to the public. Simply being in possession of or selling 
a short list of politically incorrect substances, however is not worthy of 
such resolutions. It's urgent that Congress bear that in mind during 
upcoming discussions of how to rewrite the mandatory minimum guidelines.

Stephen Heath

Drug Policy Forum of Florida, Clearwater, Fla. 
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