Huron, South Dakota, is nothing special. It's a town of about 12,000 people on the plains of Eastern South Dakota. The biggest employers are the meat packing houses, the railroad, and the hospital. It's nothing special, but it's my home town--as much as anyplace is. I grew up there, I have family there, I own property nearby. I don't spend a lot of time there, bu it's where I register to vote and where I register my vehicle. It's where I was sent to prison for nearly three years over a quarter-pound of marijuana. It holds a special place in my heart.
There was some grim court news out of Huron this week. The local newspaper, the Daily Plainsman, headlined its story Two Found Guilty in Drug Case, but the real story is the absolutely horrendous sentences facing the pair in question. The two got busted for cooking meth in a local residence and were hit with multiple felony counts: possession of meth, manufacture of meth, conspiracy to manufacture meth, as well as a marijuana possession charge thrown in for good measure. One now faces up to 45 years in prison, the other life because of previous offenses. A third woman arrested in the same raids was found guilty last week and faces 55 years. They will undoubtedly be sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
That's the way it happens in Huron. I know one Huron resident who is currently doing a five-year sentence? Was he selling meth? No. Cooking it? No. Conspiring to do the above? No. Holding some in his pocket? No. High on it? No. This guy is sitting in prison for five years because he happened to be in an apartment when it was raided, he was forced to submit a urine sample, and when it came back positive for traces of methamphetamine, he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced for "internal possession."
Meanwhile, the Daily Plainsman regularly runs the outcomes of magistrate court proceedings, where the bad check writers, the drunk drives, and the pot possessors go. I am struck when reading the court cases by the contrast in what happens to drunk drivers and pot smokers. Bizarrely, first time drunk drivers are likely to get 30 days suspended, while pot smokers are likely to get 30 days in jail. Where are the priorities here?This is one small town in the heartland. It's pretty damned harsh on its residents with drug problems, but I fear it is not that unusual. They've been fighting the war on drugs for more than three decades there now. They haven't stopped drug use, of course, but it certainly looks like a nice jobs program for cops, prosecutors, and prison guards.