BY BUDDY NEVINS
What is going on at Mike Satz’s State Attorney’s Office?
He says he is enforcing the law. Critics say Satz is locking up people who don’t deserve jail.
Statistics from the Florida Department of Corrections indicate that Broward has the third highest per capita rate in the state of jailing offenders for mandatory minimum drug offenses.
The statistics are contained in a December report from Florida Tax Watch.
Some defense attorneys, including several in the Public Defenders Office, claim Satz should show some flexibility. He should charges some drug abusers with lesser offenses to keep them from the clutches of minimum mandatory sentences which send them to a state prison for years.
“What am I supposed to do? The law says mandatory minimum,” Satz says. “I am sworn to follow the law.”
He points out that in our system of government, the Legislature makes laws.
“I can’t be a mini-Legislture making decisions on my own,” Satz says. “I must follow the law.”
Then why do Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties jail so many fewer drug criminals? Don’t they follow the law?
“I don’t know,” Satz says. “Maybe they are not following the mandatory minimums.”
My take: Other urban Southeast Florida counties apparently cut a break for those caught with small amounts of drugs. They are apparently reducing the charges on some defendants.
But Satz insists his prosecutors aren’t locking up abusers with one or two joints in their pocket.
“These are major traffickers,” Satz says.
“We looked at one year (2008-2009) of just cocaine possession,” Satz continues. “The average prior arrests were eight.”
Satz says he does have some differences with minimum mandatory sentencing. For instance, he believes that possession of a larger number of some narcotic pills be required before a heavy sentence kicks in.
The Legislature has been considering relaxing minimum mandatory sentences for some drug charges.
In the meantime, Satz says that he must obey the law.
What I think: Minimum mandatory sentences should be changed.
What purpose does it serve locking these people up for a non-violent crime?
Locking folks up for possession of small amounts of drugs has done nothing to curb substance abuse.
The War on Drugs is a war that will never be won.
The War on Drugs is a colossal waste of money.
In fiscal year 2011, Florida taxpayers spent $313 million on jailing over 16,000 for drug offenses. Many of those offenses were simple possession that required a minimum mandatory sentence.
Right now, Broward is helping throw that money away.
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