Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered 11/15/02

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In a fit of meth-induced hysteria, Arkanasas legislators two years ago voted to require methamphetamine offenders to serve 70% of their sentences. As a result, meth offenders now make up 500 of the state's 13,000 prisoners and are serving an average of nine years, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC). Other drug offenders typically serve two years and one month.

Now, the DOC is planning to ask the lawmakers to reconsider that law, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Monday. The severe sentences for meth offenders contribute to overcrowding and budget shortfalls, DOC officials told the newspaper. The DOC already is asking for an $18 million supplemental appropriation for the 2003 budget and plans to ask that its 2004 budget be increased from $185 million to $225 million.

Legislators need to think about whether they want to pay millions more to punish meth users, said DOC spokeswoman Dina Taylor. "This is a decision lawmakers have to make," she told the Commercial Appeal. "If this is what they want us to do, we'll do what the state wants us to. But we'll need money."

"There was an outcry about the meth problem," state Rep. Bob Adams (D-White Hall) told the newspaper. "That was the legislature's answer, and the problem was it was too effective. It filled the prisons with meth offenders. It took care of one problem, but created another."

State Sen. Mike Everett (D-Marked Tree) introduced legislation to amend the law last year, but it went nowhere in the face of opposition from law enforcement and "tough on crime" legislators. Maybe next year, though: Budget crises have a way of concentrating the mind.

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Issue #263, 11/15/02 The Week Online Needs Your Help! | Massachusetts: Marijuana on the Move? | Anaheim Conference Reinvigorates Battered Reformers -- Hundreds Gather to Examine Defeats, Plot New Strategies | Narco News Interview with Gustavo de Greiff | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship | Newsbrief: San Diego Medical Marijuana Rally to Go Transnational | Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign | Newsbrief: Free Speech Battle in Tampa after Leafleting Arrest | Newsbrief: Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Safe Injection Sites, First to Open Early Next Year | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Hurwitz Raided in Virginia | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Weitzel Retrial Underway in Utah | Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered | Newsbrief: Border Patrol Begins Random Stops in Michigan | Web Scan: Washington Office on Latin America, Andean Information Network, Latin America Working Group, Miami Herald, Harry Levine | Harm Reduction Coalition Seeking Articles and Artwork for "The Anonymous Issue" | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar

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