Idaho Considers Bill to Lessen Mandatory Minimums

A bill introduced in Idaho to allow judges to depart below state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for defendants marginally involved in drug dealing will get a full hearing before the state's House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee.

The bill is co-sponsored by three Republicans and one Democrat.

Idaho now has 7,400 people behind bars. More than half of them are there due to drug-related offenses. The state has shipped about 500 people to other states because there's no more room in prisons in Idaho.

Under the bill, judges could opt for shorter, treatment-focused sentences for addicts convicted of drug-dealing crimes, on the presumption that if they get clean they're less likely to re-offend.

One Republican legislator says of the bill,

"Our prisons are pumped full. It would be nice to give judges discretion about whether to send somebody to prison or to some other treatment program. In reality, they're the ones that are sitting on the front lines, not the legislators who are making the laws."

Another bill pending in the state would expand drug courts. Hopefully we'll see other states -- and ultimately the feds -- follow suit.

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  • Display: Sort:
    YES! Finally I am the first commenter! (none / 0) (#1)
    by Virginian on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 12:27:47 AM EST
    Leave it to a post on Idaho to curb interest just enough for me to win the race!

    Are any of either bills' (none / 0) (#2)
    by oldpro on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 12:42:12 AM EST
    sponsors in leadership?  Or are these bills knocking on the door to an empty caucus room?  Any chance of passing?  And will the gov sign if they do?

    Here ya go (none / 0) (#8)
    by Kitt on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 07:30:23 AM EST
    Check here and then get back to us with your answers.

    I will give this much away, the democratic legislator who is cosponsor is gay, openly so.


    Thanks for the link! (none / 0) (#14)
    by oldpro on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 10:39:53 AM EST
    However, in this class (research 101) everyone is evidently required to do his/her own homework.

    I'll give away this much:  it appears one bill could be a dead letter and one 'a go!'


    This is proposed (none / 0) (#19)
    by Kitt on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 06:28:37 PM EST
    Sooo - I'm at work so I can't spend much time doublechecking.  This bill I think will be printed to begin the process. There was this one and another (global climate change and alternative energy uses) that another Democrat here was trying to get going and I KNOW that is being printed and will go thru the process.

    Now we might promote ya to 102.


    Actually, Kitt, after (none / 0) (#20)
    by oldpro on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 07:56:54 PM EST
    6 years at the WA State legislature, I'm out of grad school and can track legislation (in our system) in my sleep.  

    Just auditing this class for fun and enlightenment.


    This seems big (none / 0) (#3)
    by manys on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 01:09:07 AM EST
    Man, Idaho is middle America. The way meth has been ravaging rural areas there could be a nice shift toward treatment and sanity rather than buying a prison construction firm CEO a new sailboat. I truly believe the increase in incarceration rate is directly due to lobbying on the part of the prison industry and guard unions.

    I don't really consider Idaho (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 04:21:49 AM EST
    middle America.  I consider it ultra-libertarian America.

    And it's also a relatively low-tax state.  They can't afford good schools. They certainly can't afford jails.


    The nail on the head (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by SeeEmDee on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 06:31:51 AM EST
    And this is the main point that is not being addressed. The orgy of prison building that's gone on over the last 20 years was based on a false assumption that there'd always be a roaring economy with plenty of money to fill and run them. People keep forgetting about 'boom and bust'...until the bust arrives on their front door, and they have to start counting the change in their back pockets.

    The fiscal party's over. We can't afford the prisons created to incarcerate our way out of what was essentially a medical problem instead of a moral one. And now the financial chickens have come home to roost. We just can't afford the DrugWar and all its excesses, anymore. Something's got to give, and it's starting at the city and county level and working its' way upwards. Expect to see more of this - without the basic issue of the unworkability of the DrugWar, itself, being addressed - in the very near future.  


    Ultra-libertarian? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Kitt on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 07:06:57 AM EST
    Hmmm....I'll ask my neighbors.

    "We can't afford good schools; we can't afford good jails."  Are those two connected?


    Not in the least connected (none / 0) (#13)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 10:25:42 AM EST
    This thread is about lightening sentences due to over-crowding.  The schools are pretty pathetic over there because of the low tax rate, tax base, and my point was, the jails must be too, based on how they're changing things.

    You ask your neighbors and I'll ask my brother from Lewiston, my aunts and uncles in Orofino, Craigmont, Winchester, Kellog, and my aunts and uncles in Coeur d'Alene.

    And I'll also ask myself, since I was born and raised in Clarkston, WA (1 mile from Idaho).  Lived on the border of Idaho for the first 18 years of my life.

    Honestly not sure why my post raised  your hackles.


    My hackles weren't raised. (none / 0) (#18)
    by Kitt on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 06:23:01 PM EST
    So this thread is about the lightening of sentences due to overcrowding?  Really? Because the legislative bill proposed is about lightening sentences for those whose drug crimes befit a lesser sentence than the mandatory rushed through when meth was discovered to be such a problem here.

    I emailed Nicole LaFavour (the Democrat who is a co-sponsor on the legislation proposed; it's been OK'd for printing etc.)this morning, and she responded with the clarification I wanted for my blog.

    And now, we're giving out our residential props?


    Middle vs wingnut? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Kitt on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 07:26:35 AM EST
    About three years someone convinced me to take part in an oversight role involving the Boise School District. One of the benefits was having legislators participate in a speakers forum.  There were a few Republicans who came from outlying areas and farming communities who talked about the meth problem. I think it was a total shock to many who thought alcohol was the prevalent 'drug of choice.'

    It's always nice to hear.... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 08:22:49 AM EST
    about a spontaneous outbreak of sanity...let's hope it spreads far and wide, and the tyranny squad over at the ONDCP are unable to contain the sanity outbreak.

    LOL (none / 0) (#11)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 09:37:13 AM EST
    Then maybe an Ultraleftwing state like Mass. may be able to follow?

    You could argue.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 10:00:27 AM EST
    progressives are to blame for prohibition.  Addiction caused some problems for society, so the progressives of the day said "lets make drug use a crime and the world will be a better place!"  In fact, wasn't the women's rights and suffrage movement at the forefront in the push for alcohol prohibition back in the 20's?

    Conservatives should be the ones at the front lines criticizing our prohibitionist policies....but I guess greed and fear got the better of 'em.  


    Some more, sometimes contradictory, info: (none / 0) (#15)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 12:19:18 PM EST
    Hart joined state Reps. Lynn Luker, R-Boise; Raul Labrador, R-Eagle; and Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise; to introduce the bill, which the House Judiciary Committee agreed to hear. But it may run into trouble if it makes it to the Senate, where Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Denton Darrington, R-Declo, said, "It's not going to pass."
    Hart said Idaho's prisons are overcrowded and the state locks up too many non-violent offenders. According to state records, as of October, Idaho's prisons housed 7,347 inmates, of whom 24.7 percent were serving time for drugs, 5.9 percent for alcohol offenses, and 23.1 percent for property crimes.
    I think judge discretion regarding sentencing and addicts getting treatment is not only fair but wise.