A move was taken by a state panel on Wednesday to decrease standard prison terms for a few drug offenders in Minnesota. The motive behind the move was to treat drug consumers in a different way than the ones peddling them.
The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission has also formed new mitigating factors, allowing judges to send more drug addicts to chemical dependency treatment and not to jail.
While speaking to KARE, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Christopher Dietzen, who chairs the commission, said, “We think that a drug dealer is more culpable than a drug user. We want the drug user who wants to get better to go into treatment. We on the commission view that as positive thing, and a matter of public safety”.
At present, the presumptive prison sentence is same at seven years for both 1st Degree Possession and 1st Degree Sales. This is the starting point for judges, who can later on take decision on the basis of a list of factors and a scoring system for offenders.
The commission has taken a decision to separate drug users from sellers, by placing them into separate sentencing categories. They have cut the presumptive sentences for users, making it four years from seven years. They have changed the standard term for 1st Degree sales to five years from seven years.
The presumptive sentence in the cases of 2nd degree drug possession is presently prison and would be changed to probation. Lars Negstad of the interfaith social justice alliance called ISAIAH said that a step in the right direction has been taken.