Mitchell Looks to End ‘Run-On Sentences’

hopehomeThe war on drugs has been a wretched and total failure for our entire society. “It is no secret that the war on drugs has had a grossly disproportionate impact on people who are black, brown and poor.”

 So states Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” in an op-ed that ran earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times on the critical topic of SB 966, Senator Holly Mitchell’s bill to end sentence enhancements.
“People of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug violations than are whites, who can typically commit the same acts in upper- and middle-class neighborhoods without criminal consequences.

“In its first vote in the California Senate April 25, the bill’s opponents resorted to racially coded fear-mongering about “perpetually arrested drug dealers.” The bill fell three votes short of a majority, with senators voting primarily along party lines — with the exception of three Democrats who joined Republicans in opposing the bill. Five other Democrats abstained.

“SB 966 could be brought back for another vote this week. It deserves to be passed by the Senate, moved to the Assembly and passed there as well. The state’s lawmakers can stop the unnecessary suffering caused by sentence enhancements. Automatically adding years to a drug sentence is a weapon of individual and community destruction disguised as an expression of concern. Passing SB 966 is an important step in the state’s belated journey toward justice and healing in our communities.

Alexander also noted that “There is no evidence that enhanced sentences reduce drug availability or the number of people harmed by illicit drug use. After decades of the war on drugs, it is clear that purely punitive approaches to drug crime are counterproductive. Drug use has not declined, controlled substances are now cheaper and more widely available than ever before, and the death rate from drug overdoses continues to rise. There is no evidence that enhanced sentences reduce drug availability or the number of people harmed by illicit drug use.

Mitchell emphasizes, “They also greatly increase racial and ethnic disparities in the drug war by reserving the harshest punishments for those most likely to be repeatedly targeted by law enforcement — i.e., poor folks of color.”

To support the passage of SB 966, go to openstates.org/ca/bills/20152016/SB966/

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