Minimum drug-sentencing requirements are under review in Idaho, where a bill providing for greater judicial discretion and alternative sentencing is now before the State's House Judiciary Rules and Administration Committee.
From Associated Press:
Idaho now has 7,400 people behind bars. More than half of them are there due to drug-related offenses. The state has shipped about 500 people to other states because there's no more room in prisons in Idaho.
Under the bill, judges could opt for shorter, treatment-focused sentences for addicts convicted of drug-dealing crimes, on the presumption that if they get clean they're less likely to re-offend. Currently, Idaho has mandatory sentences for a range of drug-trafficking offenses that give judges little or no discretion. Many sentences entail at least three to five years in prison.
The bill "ain't a bad idea," Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, told The Associated Press. "Our prisons are pumped full. It would be nice to give judges discretion about whether to send somebody to prison or to some other treatment program. In reality, they're the ones that are sitting on the front lines, not the legislators who are making the laws."
The bill was co-sponsored by one Democratic legislator and three Republicans.
(Is that a pendulum I hear swinging back toward sanity?)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto