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Harsher Sentences for Drug Crimes?

Posted by Daniel Norland | May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

A deterrent to offending? Or counterproductive to the goal?

Recently Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to be more harsh in the sentences they seek. He wants longer prison times and longer commitment periods for all crime, including non-violent drug offenders. This is contrary to the strategy put in place by the Obama administration.

It is easy to get wrapped up in believing that harsher penalties = less crime. The reality is that is simply not the case. Decades worth of research supports "evidence based" sentencing practices which focus on rehabilitation of the offender, connection to local community resources, and court ordered community based treatment. These methods have been shown to greatly reduce the rate of recidivism of those convicted of a crime. This is particularly true in cases involving non-violent offenders and other offenders where the root cause of their criminal behavior lies in mental health or substance abuse issues.

Harsher sentencing often has the opposite of the intended effect. By alienating people from the outside world for an extended period of time, we create a nearly impossible situation for them upon release. They have been out of the job market during their incarceration. Upon release many have no housing, no job, and no prospects for either of those things. They have no money and no way to obtain an income. Worse yet, we haven't treated the underlying issue. Many people in that situation find themselves turning to crime. They see no other alternative.

Attorney General Sessions' directive, combined with the Trump Administrations policy against the legalization of marijuana, are likely to jam our prisons and have negative impacts on our communities for generations to come.  The only people winning from this directive are the people running the large for-profit prison conglomerates. The rich get richer, and the poor get locked up.

I encourage you all to do the research for yourselves. I am not saying no offender should be incarcerated. I am saying that unless we address the root of the problem, we only make the problem worse.

For the press release on Attorney General Sessions directive click here:

For more information on evidence-based sentencing practices a wealth of information can be found here:

About the Author

Daniel Norland

I received my Bachelor's Degree from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in December 2006. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Law School in 2010 and chose to move back to the Coulee Region to begin my legal career. I decided to open my own law practice and have never regre...


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