Pubdate: Fri, 09 Oct 2015
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2015 The New York Times Company
Author: Ethan C. Eldon


To the Editor:

Re "Toward Saner Prison Sentences" (editorial, Oct. 4):

Senate legislation has been proposed that would reduce overly harsh 
federal prison sentences. These changes are important, but only about 
12 percent of the prison population is in federal institutions. Most 
of the more than two million prisoners in the United States are in 
state and local facilities.

Actions like President Obama's program to commute sentences for 
nonviolent offenders can give immediate relief. The Justice 
Department's early release of 6,000 prisoners beginning later this 
month is part of the president's program (front page, Oct. 7). The 
country's governors should follow his initiative and free the many 
prisoners who are suffering unduly harsh penalties for nonviolent offenses.

This would reduce prison populations and the high costs of incarceration.

Many drug users should have their sentences commuted. Possession or 
use of a few ounces of marijuana or small quantities of cocaine 
should not result in imprisonment. We would not think of locking 
someone away for possession of a bottle of scotch.

Small investments in rehabilitation programs are a more intelligent solution.


Huntington, N.Y.

The writer was chairman of Daytop Village Foundation, a drug and 
alcohol addiction rehabilitation program, from 2007 to 2009.
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