Washington State Bill Would Increase Judge's Discretion in Drug Cases 3/12/99

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The Washington State legislature is expected to vote next week on a bill that would allow judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders. House Bill 1006, introduced by Republican Representative Ida Ballasiotes, enjoys broad support from prosecutors, judges, and other lawmakers, and is widely expected to pass.

Ballasiotes told DRCNet the bill's popularity stems from a growing disillusionment with the consequences of harsh mandatory minimum sentences instituted in 1989. "The 'tough on drugs' approach has held sway for the last ten years or so," she said. "It hasn't worked well. And corrections is the fastest growing part of our budget. So my point is, we have to work smarter with the resources we have." Nonviolent drug offenders make up 25 percent of the state's prison population.

House Bill 1006 will not necessarily lower the penalties for drug offenses, but it will allow judges to sentence some offenders to supervised drug rehabilitation programs instead of jail. Ballasiotes said her bill speaks to practicalities that beyond the "tough on crime" paradigm. "It's not a matter of getting tough or being soft on crime. I don't think that's the issue at all. There are ways to treat these people that are far less expensive, that will have, I believe, a positive effect."

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Issue #82, 3/12/99 Announcements | Internet Campaign Convinces Congress to Condemn "Know Your Customer," Battle Not Yet Over | George Bush Jr. Hires Private Eye to Dig Up Own Past | Report: US Anti-Drug Forces Corrupted | Alaska Bill Introduced to Amend State's New Medical Marijuana Law | Drug Policy Campus Activism Conference | Washington State Bill Would Increase Judge's Discretion in Drug Cases | Judge Denies California AIDS Patient's Urgent Plea for Medical Marijuana | Federal Judge Allows Medical Marijuana Class Action Suit to Proceed, Questions Why Government Supplies Medical Marijuana to Some Patients, Not Others | Events | Online Petitions
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