Pubdate: Sun, 25 Mar 2007
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2007 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: J.D. Stier
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


At the age of 19, I was arrested with marijuana and sent to prison. I 
was sentenced in 1998 to 3 1/2 years.

The possibility of an early release from that living hell so 
motivated me that I took on everything within my limited power to 
improve myself.

I began attending weekly groups that supported my recovery from drugs 
and alcohol. I had a full-time job in the prison's library.

I also petitioned to receive the requisite course materials from the 
UW-Extension so that I could work towards my bachelor's degree.

My belief -- faith really -- that a parole committee would let me out 
if I demonstrated genuine efforts towards rehabilitation, deeply 
motivated me. I cannot attest to how my life would have proceeded 
under the later-imposed "truth in sentencing" prison system, in which 
inmates now must serve the full sentence handed down to them by the judge.

I can attest to the powerful motivator parole was in my life at that 
toughest of times. I was so motivated that those activities in time 
became the lifestyle I chose for myself, independent of any 
government agency's review.

I was paroled 17 months prior to the end of my 42-month sentence.

Within three years of my release from prison I had graduated from 
UW-Madison with a degree in philosophy.

I have also been employed both by a bank in Madison, and Connections 
Counseling as a substance abuse counselor to our community's teens 
and young adults.

I have not used drugs or alcohol since 1998. I appreciate each day I 
live in Madison as a joyous gift of freedom, and I strive to give 
back to this community that has given me so much love, support and 
second chances.

Gov. Jim Doyle has included in his proposed budget a provision that 
would make eligible for early release more inmates who are currently 
under the "truth in sentencing" law.

I support Gov. Doyle's attempt to ease our prohibitively expensive 
and crowded prisons of our non-violent and drug-offending inmates. 
The governor's proposal will only apply to the less-serious felonies 
such as mine.

This is an issue that strikes to the core of what our society strives 
for, true justice and the healing of our communities.

"Truth in sentencing" may be presented as an economic issue, and 
always carries with it political issues, but to me it was my life, 
and it will always be a human issue.

J.D. Stier
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