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Currently, the United States imprisons more people than any other country, a large portion of U.S. prisoners are there because of drug sentencing policies that are not helping people in need, instead they are throwing nonviolent drug offenders into state prisons along with violent criminals.
Because of the policies and mandatory minimums that are tied to certain drug offenses, many people who could benefit from drug treatment and other health centered alternatives are currently in prison facing long sentences for minor drug convictions.
Once released back into the community, these nonviolent minor drug offenders will face obstacles, such as hard time finding work, even finding a minimum wage job for someone convicted of a felony can be difficult.
Along with a hard time finding employment, felons are not allowed to receive college grants, this makes it hard for someone convicted of a drug offense to become a productive member of society and could lead to an individual involving or surrounding themselves around more crime.
It seems that the Legislature is finally catching on to their mistakes and using common sense on the war on drugs. The bill SB 649 will provide prosecutors with the flexibility to treat low-level drug offenses on a case by case basis. This will change many mandatory minimum offenses into what is known as a “wobbler,” a wobbler can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Bill SB 649 will also allow local government to reduce the cost of their jails and prisons and spend more money on helping drug offenders through rehabilitation and other medical treatment options, reserving the limited space in our prisons for serious criminals.
Currently possession of methamphetamines is already a wobbler, but bill SB 649 will add other hard drugs such as cocaine to the list. Offenses such as drug manufacturing and the sale of hard drugs will remain felonies as they are more serious drug offenses.
Bill SB 649 also has the potential to help relieve local jail crowding, with more drug crimes being charged as misdemeanors, shorter sentences will apply for minor drug offenders and in some cases offenders may be sentenced to drug treatment and probation instead of jail.
“We give nonviolent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or options to receive an education,” said Senator Mark Leno who wrote bill SB 649.
This bill will have a big impact on America’s war on drugs, helping those in need of medical assistance instead of sentencing them to long sentences that can dictate the rest of their future.