It is not really a remarkable statement: “It is really tough politics because it writes really tough literature on the campaign trail,” said Minnesota Senate Majority leader of proposed legislation that would lessen sentences for drug offenders.

The reductions to first- and second-degree drug possession convictions that have been announced by the Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission are being made as a means of reducing the overcrowding in the state prison system and as a way of saving the expense of building new prisons or reopening a private prison.

One legislator introduced a bill to expand that reduction to inmates already serving time, which could bring vocal opposition from other legislators and many prosecutors throughout the state.

What is most disappointing is that the final changes that become effective will not be based on what makes Minnesota’s safer by reducing violent crime or what policy has the best chance of turning offender’s lives around.

No, legislators will vote with the thought of could this vote be used against me in a campaign. Could it lead to inflammatory attack ads featuring shadowy, scary figures, likely implying sales to children as a means of frightening voters that a legislator voted to “free” dangerous, violent criminals.

The incarceration strategies from the last 30 years have not reduced the incident of drug abuse and have not reduced the bank balances of drug dealers. But that does not matter during an election campaign, and for that fact, Minnesota will continue to pay a high price.

Source:, “Drug sentencing reductions prompt legislative battle,” Kyle Potter, Associated Press, March 2, 2016

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