Penalties for small-time drug offenses is offensive

Earlier this year, a Tribune editorial supported a move to reduce sentencing guidelines for small-time drug offenders.
Aug 4, 2014

 

In April, the penalties were lowered for federal judges when sentencing defendants for possessing small amounts of drugs.

Now, a proposal has been adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to free tens of thousands of federal drug inmates in line with the new guidelines. We support this action as well.

Why should a person remain behind bars on petty drug possession charges if he or she would receive a much lighter sentence today? Years ago, the cry was to lock up those harmless drug offenders for possessing a trivial amount of marijuana, which is now being sold legally in some states.

We encourage state courts to also lower guidelines and open the prison gates for those serving lengthy sentences for small-time drug charges.

The Sentencing Commission said more than 46,000 inmates could benefit, with an average sentence reduction of 25 months. The change would cover defendants sentenced for all types of drugs.

The commission is an independent panel that sets federal sentencing policy.

Not only is it costly to house these prisoners, but it also keeps many of them from finding future employment and again costing the taxpayers more dollars to support them.

Petersburg (Va.) Police Chief John Dixon III, who recently spoke in Grand Rapids to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Conference, said he is convinced marijuana laws are an utter failure. The chief said drug use and addiction should be addressed by public health officials, not police. 

We agree.

Dixon said such laws have helped put a disproportionate number of blacks in prison, or left them with criminal records that hurt their chances at education, jobs and housing.

“As law-enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts,” Dixon said. “We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint. They’re put in the criminal justice system, which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives.”

It’s time for a change.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty, Fred VandenBrand and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

Interestedreader

Change for the sake of change or from what to what? Seems to me we should immediately adopt any and all ideas/rules in Colorado,then check them out five years from now!!!:)

Wolverine49457

I'd have to agree, small amounts should carry a small sentence or just a fine (that what they really want is the money anyway). For traffic offences especially if there was an accident the penalties should be much the same as alcohol while operating and I would add that covert and often predatory drugs such as the date rape drug not intended for personal ingestion should carry a very hefty punishment for the predator in possession.
When you strip away the emotion what you have left is fact and truth. Those that are currently incarcerated for drug possession have put themselves there by possessing drugs knowing if there were caught with them it could mean jail or prison time so if they are having a hard time in jail or in life it’s because they rolled the dice and lost. Fines, jail or prison are intended to be a deterrent in the hopes that the potential offender think twice before committing a crime. The punishment is meant to be hard and bring you shame and hardship on purpose and something you never want to experience again.
The law is the law and no matter how much you disagree or believe it’s wrong we are commanded by God to obey the laws of the government because only God puts governments in power, to disobey the law is to disobey God and there are consequences for being disobedient, don’t like the law? Change it however until it is no longer the law everyone knows on some level you may be unpleasantly punished if you break it.

ghjhs

Well Wolv is righ on about one thing it's about the money,this State and this County just destroys people for small offences,you want a reall eyeopener just go down the Court house @ 9 am an set in courroom 1A and see what go'on.The most destructive is the Drivers responsibility fee's the State tack's on,$500.00.An the State takes you lic for offences that had nothing to do with driving so they can fine you more. People of this State need to wake up,the law makers in this State are weaseles an need to be voted out.

haroldrezny

This is all related to Mathematics & money. MDOC has about 55,000 beds, Ottawa county? not sure - ask Rozemary he's the Sheriff. Drug/pot are generally small time offenses with mega people doing it. MDOC receives 75 to 80 inmates per week from 83 counties. 5 of those every week are freshly convicted teacher, coaches, pastors, administrators, camp counselors for CSC/rape/internet sex related crimes. 45 of those 80 are violent or predatory homicide related convictions. Its a matter of only so many beds. Michigan needs those beds in prisons/jails for the vilest of inmates. We have so many thousands and thousands of exceedingly violent, narcissistic, reprobate, sodomite predatory rapist inmates. We don't have enough beds to lock up every drug offender. I would agree its too lenient - but we don't have the bed space or tax revenue to build more prisons. Remember MDOC in last 15 years has shut down over 35 prisons and camps at the approval and request of the legislature. The 55,000 beds are prioritized for most violent caustic criminals getting a priority 5 which means house at all costs. Petty marijuana non-violent offenses receives a priority 1 which is like traffic offenses. Its like dominoes being shuffled off a table - adding one makes one drop off. Adding another inmate means one has to go free. 75 inmates per week means 75 have to be let go. MDOC has a whole division that manages this.

blondemorel

Wow Wolverine, you talk about fact and truth and then say that government must be obeyed because they are put in place by God. Ummm ok, sure. So we were driven by Satan to revolt against the Brits in the 18th century? Or Hamas, Hitler, Saddam, or a long list of others are just agents of God? Pretty poor logic there man, might need to work on that theory a bit.

Tri-cities realist

Wow for a fungi, you are pretty logical.

 

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