Pubdate: Sun, 08 Feb 2009
Source: Chapel Hill News (NC)
Copyright: 2009 Chapel Hill News
Author: Lauren McGlynn


President Bush's Jan. 19 commutations of former Border Patrol agents Ramos
and Compeon should be commended as an act of mercy. The border agents
received mandatory minimum sentences that the judge could not tailor to
fit them or their crime. However, the border agents are not alone.
Thousands of first-time, low-level, and nonviolent drug offenders are
serving sentences just as long or longer. Many of them seek clemency each
year, but President Bush granted less than a dozen commutations in his
eight years in office. President Obama needs to address this issue. In his
inaugural address, President Obama promised us government that works.
Mandatory minimums don't. They create injustice, fill our prisons, cost
taxpayers a fortune and don't reduce crime.

The War on Drugs is obviously not working. It has only built a prison
industry that discriminates against low-income citizens who have obvious
problems. Instead of continuing a prison industry, the money would be
better spent on serious rehabilitation and re-entry into society for this
lost class of citizens.

Granting clemency to some deserving prisoners won't fix everything, but
President Obama should use commutations to begin a dialogue with Congress
about how to get rid of mandatory minimums.

Lauren McGlynn

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