Drug Sentence Changes

Changes to mandatory-minimum prison sentences is a concern for some.
An out of control prison population in this country is one reason some federal officials are calling for an end to mandatory-minimum prison sentences for some drug crimes.   But one local prosecutor says those mandatory jail terms can be an effective tool for law enforcement and should be kept in place.
While the change called for yesterday would affect only federal criminal drug cases, with similar mandatory jail terms set out under Pennsylvania law, one local District Attorney is defending the use of those mandatory and long jail terms.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins says when it comes to prosecuting significant drug criminals, mandatory minimum jail sentences based either on the amount of drugs involved, or the location where those drugs are sold, makes perfect sense to him.
Higgins says that in his view, there are already enough options available to prosecutors when it comes to calling for a mandatory prison sentence for a drug crime.  That's why the possible change in federal drug enforcement is a concern to him.
But while calling for an end to the federal mandatory sentences, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the move would mean more effective law enforcement   The Attorney General went on to point out that mandatory drug sentences are a big factor contributing to prison over crowding.
But the Bedford District Attorney says there is a good reason convicted dealers are locked up for lengthy periods of time.   The Bedford D. A. says that mandatory minimum sentences can be a useful tool when it comes to negotiating plea agreements before taking a case to trial.  That's one more way the mandatory minimum sentences can help the judicial system run more smoothly.

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