Pubdate: Sat, 28 Nov 1998
Source: Northwest Florida Daily News
Copyright: 1998 Northwest Florida Daily News
Contact:  (850) 863-7834
Author: Dan Scupin
Note: Headline by MAP


Sunday's Daily News(11/22) (Felons back on street, kill again) points out
the idiocy of the current "war on drugs." If Florida's mandatory sentencing
clogs prisons with nonviolent, first time drug offenders like other states,
then the obvious result is rapists, child molestors and armed robbers
pouring out of crowded prisons.  Our current system puts the small time
marijuana seller in a $30,000 cell for 5 years and releases the violent
offenders because they have to "blindly follow mandatory minimums."
Mandatory drug sentences succeed in imprisoning low level offenders and
allows big time dealers to escape prison because they have information or
money to trade.

The small timers have no such leverage.  As an example, Massachusetts Dept
of Correction records, reported by the Boston Globe, show that 84% of those
serving mandatory sentences on drug charges are first time offenders.  And
8 out of 10 drug offenders are doing an average of 5 years in prison, about
1 year LONGER than the average violent offender.

Reformers want to return to JUDGES the ability to consider extenuating
circumstances before sentencing.  Of course this would reduce the
prosecutor's draconian power and the "tough on crime" politicians would not
be able to brag about the unprecedented numbers flowing into prisons.
Unless the public is willing to pay more taxes for EVEN MORE prisons
something must be done to rectify this sad situation.  Perhaps the
spineless politicians should repeal these misguided laws before we release
more killers in order to imprison the demonized drug offender.

Dan Scupin
Destin, FL 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake