Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rule puts drug sentences in line with crime

The U.S. Sentencing Commission took a bold step toward correcting decades of injustice last week by approving a plan to reduce the prison sentences for about 50,000 federal inmates convicted of low-level drug crimes. The move would reduce the ballooning federal prison population and save taxpayers money. Congress, which has until Nov. 1 to block the plan, should make sure it succeeds. Releasing inmates who received unfairly harsh sentences during the war on drugs would more fairly align their punishment with newer sentencing guidelines that have lessened penalties for the same crimes.

In April, the sentencing commission voted to change the base offense levels associated with drug quantities in trafficking crimes. That reduced prison sentences for low-level drug dealers by about 11 months and is expected to result in a decrease of about 6,500 federal prisoners over a five-year period. But like the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which sought to correct the sentencing disparities for dealers of crack and powder cocaine, the sentencing commission's April rule was not retroactive. It left tens of thousands of prisoners languishing behind bars.

Last week's vote seeks to close the gap. The new rule calls for a federal judge to review each case before an inmate is granted early release. If Congress allows the rule to stand, inmates may begin applying for early release in November. If approved, releases will begin in November 2015. The delay appeases critics who worried that some violent offenders might slip through the cracks during a rushed review process.

The sentencing commission's vote affirms a broader effort by the Obama administration and Congress to ease the burdens on federal prisons, which house 216,000 inmates, many of whom are incarcerated for low-level drug crimes. The sentencing commission wisely set aside fears that an inmate exodus would endanger public safety and stuck to the facts. Research shows that low-level drug offenders who are released early are no more likely to reoffend than those who serve their entire sentences.

Federal and local governments also should work together to ensure that newly released inmates have access to transition programs that provide them with the social and employment skills that will allow them to thrive and resist the lure of crime. Long sentences for low-level drug crimes benefit no one, including taxpayers.

Comments
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18