As the Legislature starts work on the 2011 budget, taxpayers should know that the state could save millions and improve public safety at the same time by reforming our drug sentencing laws.
Drug offenders can serve longer sentences than violent criminals — often 10 and 15 years, even longer — even if they aren’t a danger to the public or need treatment instead of prison. It costs $47,000 per year for each state prisoner, which could pay a year’s salary for an entry-level teacher in many communities. It costs about $35,000 per year for each county prisoner, the same as a year’s salary for a youth services caseworker or a state police dispatcher.
In 2009 the Senate passed a sentencing reform bill that would allow drug offenders to apply for parole. The Executive Office of Public Safety, the Dept. of Correction, the Parole Board and several county sheriffs supported it.
They know it makes sense to give drug offenders the chance to return to their communities to support their families. Doing so under Parole Board supervision helps end the revolving door of ex-offenders who go back to prison.
The House needs to pass a similar bill. Please tell your state Representative that you want your tax dollars spent more wisely.
What a joy to see in the Feb. 18 Bay State Banner a Boston teen, Antonio Stroud, in the spotlight for doing something positive, especially one from the Media Communications Technology High School. Our community is always grateful to see students earn recognition for jumping on a great opportunity and succeeding. Thanks for making our work in the classroom more rewarding.
Margaret Hoyt Rustrian