Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jun 2001
Source: Beckley Register-Herald (WV)
Copyright: 2001, The Register-Herald
Contact: (304) 255-5625
Author: E. Alice Hill
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


According to a recent news report, Mr. Bush is asking Congress for $4.66
billion for the Federal Bureau of Prisons' 2002 budget. As a taxpayer
this concerns me.

The reason he is asking for the money is to cope with the rising federal
prison population, but shouldn't we ask ourselves why the federal prison
population is increasing rapidly? One reason, I believe, is because of
the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that were put into affect in
1987. Another is the fact that any federal parole was removed, thereby
leaving inmates no alternative but to serve 100 percent of their
sentences minus 54 days a year allowed for good behavior.

I'm not being soft on crime; I feel a person must be responsible for
their actions. If you break the law, you should pay the price. But,
shouldn't the punishment fit the crime? In many cases, mandatory minimum
sentences go way beyond what can be deemed fair and fitting punishment.

The report states that between 1992 and 1999, of the 78,000 people
sentenced to federal prison, almost 50,000 of them were sentenced under
mandatory minimums. Half of those 50,000 received sentences longer than
10 years. Most of those people were low level, non-violent drug
offenders. The reason behind putting mandatory minimums into effect in
the first place was to take kingpins off the street - something that
very rarely happens.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who is paying to keep
these people in prison ... we, the taxpayers are. Shouldn't we be asking
ourselves if there isn't a better and less expensive way to go about
fighting the war on drugs?

Is it justice when a low level, non-violent drug offender spends 4 to 6
years more imprisoned than a rapist, a child molester or a second-degree
murderer, all because of mandatory minimums?

Yes, the drug offender deserves prison time, but how much time is
warranted and at what cost to us?

E. Alice Hill, Concord, N.C.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk