News Release: State’s tough drug laws reconsidered

News Item: State’s tough drug laws reconsidered
Brian Wright
From the Oakland Press:

Story by David Salisbury of Capital News Service

Concerns the efforts led by Rep. Paul Condino, Democrat of Southfield, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to divert marijuana offenders from prison to drug courts and other “treatment” methods.

Condino says, “These aren’t people who are murderers or rapists.  These are nonviolent people who need treatment.”

Patricia Caruso, director of the Department of Corrections said prison sentences in Michigan for drug violations are extremely lengthy compared to other states:  “For example, a person convicted of dealing or possessing more than 1.75 ounces of cocaine faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.”

Caruso mentioned one woman who was given a long sentence for possessing a relatively small amount of cocaine.  “It will be 25 years before she’s eligible for parole,” Caruso said.  (That’s longer than second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year maximum or negligent homicide with a two-year maximum.)

Caruso said about 75 percent of inmates have had a substance abuse problem like this woman who received the lengthy sentence.  “It’s people in cases such as these that need to be given rehabilitation rather than taking up valuable space in our overcrowded jails,” she said.

Michigan has the sixth-largest prison population in the country.  The corrections department receives 25% (approximately $2 billion per year) of the state’s annual budget.

Caruso said that although some lawmakers favor less severe drug laws geared toward rehabilitation, few do so publicly because they don’t want to appear “soft on crime.”

Ed–I’d say it’s favorable news to partisans of Michigan liberty when the director of corrections wants to empty the prisons of nonviolent people convicted of consensual activity.

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