Pubdate: Mon, 16 May 2005
Source: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Copyright: 2005 New England Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Dave Collins
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


To the Editor of THE EAGLE:- With sparks flying over the Taconic parking 
lot drug cases, perhaps it would do some good to take a look back at the 
events of last summer.

As an employee in the downtown area, I recall seeing dangerously 
intoxicated youth involved in fistfights and drug sales.

A schoolteacher was assaulted in the back parking lot, in front of his 
daughter, over a minor traffic incident. There certainly were not 2,000 
people calling for leniency -- not when the shopping district was being 
disturbed during the busiest months of the year! So a cry went up for law 
enforcement to get involved, and they did their jobs. Now people are 
"saddened" and "appalled" that the law is going to be carried out. They do 
have a point -- mandatory minimum sentences are not a productive solution 
when dealing with non-violent drug offenders, especially when the accused 
are young and impressionable, and the community has the resources to 
address their behavior constructively. But nobody wanted to have a 
constructive public dialogue in the middle of a crime spree -- they just 
wanted the problem to disappear. Arrests of this type have been taking 
place in other parts of the county for years. Only now, when local youth 
have been rounded up at the request of our own community, are these budding 
legal activists concerned with the injustice of our drug laws. Where was 
the CCAJ when the young people of Pittsfield were being locked up for the 
same crimes?

Had any of these citizens spoken up against the injustice faced by those 
people -- most of them poor, and many of them minorities -- with the same 
zeal that they now defend their own children, perhaps the current 
predicament could have been avoided.

Better yet, had the town of Great Barrington called on the parents and the 
community, rather than the police, to control its unruly youth, perhaps 
they could have controlled the fate of their own children as well.

David Collins

Great Barrington
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman