Pubdate: Mon, 31 Jan 2005
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2005 The Oregonian
Author: Stephen Heath


Your editorial, "A better way to set prison time" (Jan. 14), raises
valid concerns about the need for Congress to exercise prudence as it
examines federal sentencing guidelines in the wake of the most recent
Supreme Court rulings.

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 is addressed by taking the offender
and caging him in a federal prison for years -- or, in the case of
many mandatory minimum sentences, decades. And despite the feds having
jailed more than 1 million such offenders over the past 20 years, the
demand for illicit drugs and the illegal trade that feeds it remain

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.


Public relations director

Drug Policy Forum of Florida

Clearwater, Fla.
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