Monday, January 22, 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.

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Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Updated: 5 hours ago

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18