Prison overcrowding targeted in proposed law reducing ‘dangerous drug’ penalty

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People caught with dangerous drugs could face less jail time if a proposed senate bill becomes law, supporters said it could help people get into treatment and out of prison, the city’s top prosecutor strongly opposes.

Senate Bill 2793 proposes to reduce the penalty of controlled substances from a felony to a misdemeanor, it would reduce the sentence for people who get caught but Acting Prosecuting Attorney, Dwight Nadamoto said this will not help the state’s drug problem.

“The laws have been getting weaker and weaker, I mean has the problem gotten any better?,” Nadamoto said. “They have less incentive to get treatment because it’s only punishable up to one year, you have less probation officers to monitor them because the case load is going to increase, so if they are not getting treatment now, why will they get treatment then?”

However, Senator Karl Rhoads who is also the chair of the senate judiciary committee said it is time to treat drug addiction as a medical condition and not as a crime.

Rhoads said, “I understand you can make the argument that you may want to stop more if there’s a higher probability that you’re going to prison, but if you’re really addicted there’s a lot of evidence that says that prison just doesn’t work.”

Rhoads also sees a problem in prison overcrowding, he said this bill would put people into treatment and out of prison.

Although people who commit crimes driven by drug abuse would still face time behind bars.

Rhoads said, “We got three people to cells that are suppose to hold that are suppose to hold one and sooner or later someone is going to sue us again.”

Nadamoto said it is not a matter of simply changing the law, he said people with non violent offenses are usually put on probation therefor not making much of a difference in the number of people inside the prison.

Nadamoto said, “How it is going to reduce over-crowding if they’re not putting in the non-violent drug offenders to begin with, all of the violent offenders are being put in (prison), now if you want to reduce overcrowding get a new prison.”

Although both Rhoads and Nadamoto agree there needs to be new solutions to curb drug addiction in the state.

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