Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Again, not all crimes are created equal

The Legislature updated Alabama's three-strikes law in 2000 to permit paroles of nonviolent offenders in an effort to ease the state's long-running prison crunch. But with the prison population soaring, many felons convicted of drug trafficking or burglary still serve mandatory life sentences while killers often don't.

Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser plans to ask state lawmakers for additional reforms next year, and he looks to be thinking in quite practical terms: "We're angry at that person for stealing the bike, the lawnmower, but they're not gonna hurt anybody. We need to save those beds for people who commit murder. Everyone wanted the war on drugs and to 'get tough on crime,' and while everyone still wants to protect society, they realize that didn't work. We're not protecting society like we thought we would. There are better ways to do it."

Repeat offenders naturally should face stiffer sentences than first-time offenders. But it's a foolish waste of resources to put a small-time drug dealer behind bars until he dies while convicted murderers and rapists roam the streets.


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