Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2005
Source: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Copyright: 2005 New England Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Jeffrey H. Herman
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

Dealing drugs in or near schools in intolerable, and the fools who do it 
should eat the severe consequences that the law calls for. However, if 
someone asked me where the school zones are, I would probably say that they 
are where the schools are. That seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it 
isn't. I never would have guessed that the parking lot where the Great 
Barrington youth allegedly performed their bad acts is in a school zone. 
Where's the school?

Apparently there's a bona-fide school in some rooms very close by. Who 
knew? This is not a trivial point.

To the contrary, it's central to whether or not justice is being done, and 
if the law is actually being applied as intended.

If the successful sting operation had been conducted a couple of blocks 
elsewhere, the first-time offenders would apparently be looking at a range 
of serious consequences short of jail time. That seems reasonable. If they 
stay out of trouble, the taxpayers save a lot of money and the offenders 
can return to learning how to be constructive citizens.

If they continue to screw up, then the consequences escalate until 
incarceration becomes the best remedy. As the situation now stands, it 
seems like our DA is painted into a corner, or at least is afraid to 
venture out of the corner.

Poor and distorted public policy is the result.

Arbitrarily sending the first-timers to the slammer for two years is 
excessively punitive and expensive, not to mention counterproductive. After 
all, jails are not noted for being incubators for tomorrow's finest. That's 
why incarceration is, by design, generally not applied against 
first-timers, especially youthful ones, under the circumstances. It's poor 
logic to claim that incarcerating these first-timers for two years is equal 
justice, when most first-timers are not incarcerated. The law and order 
constituency, which I actually belong to, is misguided this time. If we 
step back and objectively evaluate what's going on here, we will all see 
that what's out of order is the way this situation is being handled. The 
school zone law needs to be amended so that it will be confined to only 
achieving what it was designed for, which is to keep drugs away from 
schools by making it extremely painful to do otherwise, and that's a good 

But the situation at hand seems to be a horse of another color, maybe even 
curious colors.


West Stockbridge 
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