Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr 2016
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Note: Does not publish letters from outside their circulation area.
Author: Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California state Senate on Monday 
rejected a bill that would end a practice of extending jail and 
prison sentences for repeat drug offenders.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said the bill would help address 
the disproportionate incarceration of minorities. She brought it amid 
a national debate about the effectiveness of the war on drugs and its 
effects on minority communities.

"As we now know, this drug war strategy has failed at decreasing drug 
availability," Mitchell said. "Controlled substances are now cheaper, 
stronger and typically more widely available."

The bill fell three votes short when Republicans and a handful of 
Democrats declined to support it. It was strongly opposed by 
sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys who said it would make 
it harder to crack down on drug dealers.

"Let's hold people accountable for their crimes, especially peddling 
these drugs that are killing our kids," said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.

Mitchell's bill would have repealed a 1985 law creating so-called 
sentence enhancements for prior drug crimes. People convicted of a 
number of drug-related offenses can get an additional three years 
added to their sentence for each prior drug conviction.

The bill would continue to allow enhancements for people convicted of 
dealing large volumes of drugs.

Mitchell said it's unfair to extend a prison sentence based on a 
prior crime for which the defendant has already served time. The bill 
would benefit, in particular, low-income drug users and small-scale 
sellers, not cartel bosses or large-volume dealers, she said.

Mitchell can bring her bill back at a later date.

"We have members who are just really stuck," Mitchell told The 
Associated Press after the vote. "Stuck in this antiquated, perhaps 
racist attitude about who's worthy of investment and redemption and who's not."
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