Prosecutors Want to Halt Reduction in Drug Sentences
County prosecutors throughout Minnesota have begun a push to derail some changes to the state's sentencing guidelines for drug crimes.
The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission voted 7-3 in December to approve the revamped set of recommendations for judges to use while sentencing criminals for drug-related convictions. Supporters say the changes, which will go into effect August 1st unless the State Legislature takes action, would bring Minnesota's sentences for drug offenses more in line with other states and with the actual sentences being imposed by many judges in Minnesota. It's also estimated they would reduce the state's prison population by about 520 prisoners over the next 10-years.
Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem says prosecutors object to the changes because they significantly reduce the sentences for high-level dealers, while making far less dramatic changes to the sentences for the drug users and addicts who find themselves caught up in drug trafficking. He contends the changes could hinder efforts to put some of those people in drug courts.
Ostrem says Olmsted County's drug court is nearly ready to begin operating. He says some final details are being hammered out and training sessions are taking place in an effort to meet the goal of launching the drug court this spring. Ostrem has long pushed to implement a drug court in the county and it was a key issue in his first election campaign for County Attorney in 2006.
Ostrem is a regular guest of Rich Peterson on the Rochester's Good Morning Show on KROC-AM. The YouTube Video at the top of the post is from his visit to the radio station studio on February 24, 2016.