That's the title of this good op-ed in Georgia's Ledger-Enquirer, which provides as good an indictment against mandatory minimums as we've seen in awhile:
People have warned, since well before the first of these ridiculous exercises in political machismo were signed into law by governors knee-knocking scared to be branded “soft on crime,” that the ultimate cost of stuffing prisons with nonviolent offenders would be prohibitive.
The bill has now come due, with interest. And lo and behold, what sensible appeals to basic justice and long-term fiscal responsibility couldn’t accomplish, a state budget crisis very well might. ....
Sentencing laws that remove all discretion from courts and make individual circumstances legally irrelevant have always been an affront to justice and fiscal sanity, even in prosperous times. Now it’s obvious -- as it should have been all along -- that such laws are not just unconscionable, but unaffordable.Over at the Savannah Morning News, this op-ed echoes the approval of reforms suggested by Republican Governor Nathan Deal:
Gov. Nathan Deal is on the right track with his proposal to divert nonviolent drug offenders from prison to alternative programs.
That's what Chatham County has been doing for about a decade, and the track record is encouraging. It makes sense to try to replicate it across Georgia.
All we get from locking up crackheads, meth users and other addicts - besides a hefty bill - is 17 percent of our prison population who become better criminals when they are eventually released.
Why lock people up at public expense if you can clean them up and get them to become productive citizens?Why, indeed? Deal's proposal, detailed here, sounds like a good deal for Georgians and is getting bipartisan support:
"One out of every 13 Georgia residents is under some form of correctional control," [Deal] said. "It costs about $3 million per day to operate our Department of Corrections." ...
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, noted Deal's proposal has earned widespread bipartisan support.
"It's a sort of convergence of liberal and conservative ideas," he said. "This idea is fiscally sound as well as socially responsible.
"We need to distinguish between the people we are afraid of and those we're just mad at. We can't afford to lock up everyone."It probably doesn't hurt that Gov. Deal's son is a judge who runs an alternative sentencing court in Hall County.
When I think about Georgia, I don't think "hard on crime" -- I think "crazy on crime." Could those days be over soon?