New sentencing for drug offenders - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

New sentencing for drug offenders

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Amarillo, Texas - Low-level drug offenders will no longer be given jail time. This after a policy change announcement by the U.S. Attorney General Monday.

U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder announcing a few policy changes Monday, those changes will affect those tried at a federal level for drug charges.

"U.S. penal code has fixed sentences most of which were passed during the war against drugs. So they've got some very long mandatory sentences for drug offenders," Keith Price, WTAMU Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology said.

Holder announced prosecutors will no longer be sending low-level, non-violent drug offenders behind bars.

Price says not only is over crowding an issue, but also rising costs for housing inmates.

"Now, even though an offender might be dangerous when he's 25, as he starts to age, that dangerousness drops off very significantly. But, what rises very significantly is the cost to keep him incarcerated," Price said.

Local attorney's we spoke with agree. They say these type of jail sentences are a waste of money.

"Do you want government spending tons of your money versus not spending tons of your money issue. This is all about what we think the government ought to do. What our government currently does, bother federal and state, is waste a lot of it's resources on crummy two bit drug cases that should never wind up in jail or in prison," Jeff Blackburn, criminal defense attorney said.

Those who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will be sent to drug rehabilitation facilities and face community service. 

Drug courts already exists in Texas to help reduce costs and over-crowding. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice tell us they are pleased the states's programs may be considered as a possible model for reform at the federal level.