Strict jail sentences for low-risk drug offenders may soon be a thing of the past.
T he U.S. Attorney General announced that federal prosecutors will no longer seek long-term prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. "The reasoning behind it is to kind of reduce some of the people who are in our jails so we have more room and more space for more violent crimes," said Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas. "Does that always work? I would say no. Just because we reduce their sentence time, it's not going to help with the long-term situation."
R andall County District Attorney James Farren said even though states like Texas have led the way in reducing sentences for lower-level drug crimes, every situation is different and subject to flexibility. "Any time you issue some blanket directive that's one size fits all, you just perpetuate the problem you're trying to solve, and that is inflexibility and the inability to respond to the differences in various cases," said Farren. "The criminal justice system in Texas is really very good and it works very well. When we need to we can be really strict, but we can show a lot of leniency to people that we think have a chance of rehabilitating," said Farren.
Farren said the state's legal system has the ability to look at the facts, the evidence, and all of the circumstances, while federal prosecutors do not. Law enforcement officials fear changes in the prison system could have some damaging effects to drug crime accountability.
"T his simply changes the problem from being too harsh on the small fry , to being to lenient on the really dangerous people ," said Farren.
Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said while the federal prosecutors have a black and white system, it's nice for states, like Texas, to assess all factors.
" Y ou have to look at each case individually and I'm glad that we can do that," said Thomas. "You could ruin somebody in a heartbeat over something just because it's black and white. That's where that grey comes in, and we're happy we have grey."