Pubdate: Mon, 23 Jun 2008
Source: Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
Copyright: 2008 The Herald Company
Author: Joan Squier

Bad Reaction


To the Editor:

Twenty-two years ago this week, former University of Maryland 
basketball star Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose. His death 
stunned the sports world and left an indelible mark on our justice system.

In the months following his death, Congress passed harsh new 
mandatory minimum drug laws that set a 100:1 disparity between the 
amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine that trigger the same 
five-year mandatory prison sentence. The result: One-size-fits-all 
sentencing, regardless of an individual's role in the case.

We punish low-level drug users and dealers the same or worse than the 
drug kingpins that mandatory sentences were intended to catch.

Crack-cocaine offenders serve sentences up to eight times longer than 
those sentenced for powder cocaine.

I believe the taxpayers of this country are fed up with the 
government spending billions of dollars incarcerating individuals who 
might otherwise be contributing members of society.

Broken families must seek out resources from the local government to 
help support them when the father or mother are in jail. Federal 
judges should have their power reinstated and taken away from power 
hungry prosecutors who have to answer to no one.

By continuing to lock away first time and nonviolent crack cocaine 
offenders for extraordinarily long sentences instead of treating the 
problem, we are repeating the mistake, not the lesson, of Len Bias' story.

We are repeating a tale of lost promise.

In recent months, we have seen a new effort among the courts, the 
public and even among some of our politicians to rewrite the ending 
for these prisoners.  What is Congress waiting for?

Joan Squier

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