Monday, June 18, 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: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18