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May 22, 2006

The inevitable drug sentencing trade-offs

This interesting article from the Huntington (WV) Herald Dispatch, entitled "Costs a factor in drug enforcement," spotlights some of the trade-offs that are inevitable in the prosecution and sentencing of drug offenses. Here are some snippets:

Tougher punishment for drug dealers is an idea that many — from police to politicians to the public — agree on. But a variety of economic pressures and investigators' need for information often mean lesser charges, shorter sentences and failed attempts to send drug dealers back to the jurisdictions where they are wanted....

The Herald-Dispatch earlier this year reviewed Cabell County court records from 2004 and found that less than 15 percent of the felony drug trafficking cases actually resulted in a year or more in prison. Officials hope that the rising number of arrests this year and better strategies will result in more drug dealers behind bars for longer periods, but it's too early to tell.  Most of those cases are still working their way through the system, and there are many challenges — from mounting prison costs to crowded court dockets....

Joe Ciccarelli, the state's supervisory senior resident agent for the FBI, said it is just an unfortunate example of how economics can affect drug enforcement.  He said the decision is ultimately up to the voters.  "I think it all boils down to economics," he said.  "From soup to nuts. Whether you are a drug dealer or a public official trying to find the money to fight the drug dealers. It's all about money.

"It's up to the people of this state to decide where we want our money to go. Do we want to pay more tax dollars to have more judges, more prosecutors, more jails and more policemen?  Where is the balancing point?  Where does our safety and the safety in our communities come into play?  Are we willing to put our money where our mouth is?" Ciccarelli added....

May 22, 2006 at 07:17 AM | Permalink

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