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Shorter sentences for drug offenders?

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission — an independent state board that sets recommendations for judges — voted late last year to drastically reduce how long some drug dealers and abusers spend in prison.
Among the recommended changes is to reduce the sentence of first-time drug possession with no criminal history to four years from seven years. And the proposed sentencing for first time offenders convicted of first-degree drug sale will drop to five and a half years from seven years. The proposed changes are expected go into effect Aug. 1.
We’re not convinced the changes are entirely needed. Judges already have considerable latitude in imposing sentences. Many will stay imposition of the sentence, or adjudication, and place a first-time offender on probation — usually with stringent conditions that encourage responsibility, rehabilitation and restitution. The threat of the possibility of the sentence being imposed if offenders violate the conditions of probation is a great motivator for complying with those conditions.
But we’re also not opposed to the changes, especially if they help alleviate overcrowding in prisons and help reduce the cost of incarceration.
However, whatever the sentencing guidelines are, they need to be tied with successful rehabilitation. The goal here should be to return drug users to good citizenship, not create more criminals.
That being said, we also need to hold dealers to a different level of punishment. It’s one thing to be prey to an addiction, it’s another to be a predator who encourages those addictions for profit.
We assume that the commission was judicious in coming up with its new recommendations, and that they are based in solid research and data.
And we hope the net result is more rehabilitation and fewer criminals in prison.