ideaSome readers of this blog have submitted interesting ideas for your consideration. The first is about drug reform.

Drug Reform Stalls on California Governor’s Veto

Longstanding debate swirls around the nation’s drug policies, especially those related to simple possession.  Under current sentencing laws, certain drug charges classified as felonies carry sentences that don’t seem to match the crimes.  As a result, there has been a steady push to reclassify certain drug crimes as misdemeanors.

In the fall, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have done exactly that in the State, correcting disparities between offenses and punishments, once and for all.

Greater Flexibility for Prosecutors and Judges

Essentially, the California initiative would have given judges and prosecutors more leeway interpreting charges, allowing them to classify certain offenses as misdemeanors, which carry felony charges today.  Instead of lengthy prison sentences, offenders convicted under the new guidelines would be sent to treatment facilities to address drug dependency issues.  Probation and community service would also be applied to sentences in some cases, adding punitive elements as well as rehabilitation requirements.

The law was seen by some as an appropriate measure to alleviate the prison overcrowding problem in California.  Under current statutes, certain recreational drugs like LSD and Meth fall in an intermediate legal area, which may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors.  Drugs like heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, are always subject to felony charges.  The proposed law extended the flexibility to charge these drugs in the same way others are handled, giving judges and prosecutors discretion to issue misdemeanor charges when warranted.

Compelling Arguments from Both Sides

Opponents of the measure pointed to public safety concerns stemming from relaxed drug penalties, leaning on the long held position that prison is an effective deterrent for drug users.  On the other hand, supporters see two major benefits from relaxed sentencing guidelines for simple drug possession.

Felony charges stay with offenders, blocking access to jobs, housing and education required to get them back on their feet.  Supporters of Bill 649 saw less chance for convicts to return to jail if felony records were not imposed for drug offenses.  Instead, misdemeanor charges could be addressed without creating criminal records preventing personal advancement among those charged.

According to proponents, saving valuable resources and directing law enforcement efforts to more pressing areas are additional benefits of relaxing drug possession sentencing standards.

While federal sentencing trends are themselves moving toward greater flexibility for drug possession charges, Brown defended his veto, stating broader reform was on the way for California’s penal system anyway, so changing this single aspect of the system independently does not make sense at this time.

Author Byline:

This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.

 

Krista Coleman sends along an interesting infographic, “What Makes a Killer?” Here’s the link: http://www.top-criminal-justice-schools.net/guns .

 

In Canada people are meeting the need for those who have a loved one in the criminal justice system. Based on first nations healing ideas, people share their experiences and find strength and hope in the process. See http://toddcanada.org/

And you?  How about a blog from you? Nameless if you want. (No names of inmates or prison names may be used without written permission.)

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Comments
  1. Brown’s veto was extremely foolish, but was, no doubt, the politician’s usual preference for re-election. There is absolutely no reason not to legalize marijuana, at least, and decriminalize the rest, That the US cannot see this is why they have more of their citizens in prisons and jails, both in absolute and proportional terms, than any other nation on earth. It is ironic (and characteristic of the simple-minded religiosity that prevails) that California–and other states’–voters continue to demand lower taxes, which has wrecked their public schools, public health, and infrastructure, while cheering for grotesquely high spending their judicial and corrections systems, not to mention the enormous social costs of releasing inmates with no options but to return to drug-dealing. Clearly, substantial sentences have only ill effects and no benefits (except that many of the prisons, not least in California, are now operated by private enterprise). It looks like the only way Americans can keep jobs at home is in the armaments and corrections industries. Unfortunately, the Canadian government is going the same way.

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