Pubdate: Thu, 29 Oct 2015
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Christian M. Capece


Regarding Heather Mac Donald's "Obama's Tragic Let 'em Out Fantasy"
(op-ed, Oct. 24): Respectfully, Ms. Mac Donald would do well to spend
time in a real federal courtroom to observe the ridiculously low
amount of drugs that needs to be trafficked for an offender to earn a
long prison sentence.

Our office, located in a state with the nation's highest rate of 
drug-overdose deaths, routinely represents drug addicts charged with 
distributing as few as two or three prescription pain pills to other 
addicts who happen to be cooperating with local law enforcement 
agencies. Such defendants are hardly the serious drug traffickers
Ms. Mac Donald suggests fill federal prisons.

Rarely are cooperating, low-level traffickers used by prosecutors to 
build a case against their more sophisticated, out-of-state suppliers. 
Instead more of what you might call "low-hanging fruit" cases are 
prosecuted with hardly a dent made in the so-called war on drugs.

Ms. Mac Donald also writes that "it takes a lot more than marijuana or
cocaine use to end up in federal prison." This statement is false.
After federal inmates are released from prison, they remain under
court supervision for one or more years. During such time drug use
alone by the former inmate is considered a supervision violation,
which often leads to additional time in prison and continues a
mindless cycle of incarceration and release. This is precisely why a
bipartisan effort, led by the president, is needed to create
additional drug and mental-health treatment resources in our
communities. Such resources will give judges more rational
alternatives than imposing costly prison sentences in every case and
may also help prevent addicts and those struggling with mental-health
issues from being charged with crimes in the first place.

Christian M. Capece

Federal Public Defender

Charleston, W.Va.
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