Pubdate: Sun, 08 Nov 2015
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2015 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Joseph Apodaca
Note: Joseph Apodaca is a Santa Fe native studying social work at the 
University of Southern California


As reported by The Washington Post and reprinted in The New Mexican 
("Justice Department about to free 6,000 prisoners," Oct. 6), the 
Justice Department is prepared to release 6,000 prisoners. That 
started on Oct. 30 and is the largest one-time release by the feds 
ever. The U.S. Sentencing Commission retroactively reduced the 
sentence for drug offenses, which precipitated this response.

Everyone from Obama, the American Civil Liberties Union to Republican 
presidential candidate Carly Fiorina are in support of further 
reducing the mandatory-minimum sentences that were set for drug 
offenses during the sweeping "war on drugs" campaign of the 1980s and 1990s.

This is long overdue. The sentencing laws that were enacted decades 
ago were severely unjust. For example, penalties for possession of 
crack cocaine were disproportionately harsher than penalties for 
powder cocaine. As a result, inner-city minorities were targeted, 
while the affluent were dealt an easier hand, without considering 
additional biases within the judicial system toward racial minorities 
and the poor.

In recent years, states like New Mexico have been keen on creating 
drug court programs in light of budget constraints and a change in 
perspective. Drug court programs have shifted the court from doling 
out punishments to working with drug offenders to address their 
addiction. These programs are humane and reduce recidivism by 
addressing the underlying issue.

Nonviolent drug offenders need to be released from our prisons. These 
men and women need a chance to correct their mistakes. The propaganda 
and promises of "the war on drugs" never materialized, instead 
prisons became larger and more numerous and these prisoners were the 
victims of these failed policies. It is not too late.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom