With less than 5% of the world's population, the United States has almost 25% of its prisoners. (Photo: AP)
With less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States has almost 25% of its prisoners. (Photo: AP)

Police chiefs and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are trying to lower incarceration rates. Reducing the prison population, they argue, would also improve public safety. Instead of focusing on minor infractions, police could pursue violent criminals. In the column “Mandatory minimums do more harm than good, ex-inmate says,” a woman shares her experience as a non-violent offender sentenced to 30 years on drug charges. See what readers said about mandatory minimums and her story below. Comments from Facebook are edited for clarity and grammar: 

Mandatory minimums have been a resounding success for the Military-Industrial-Surveillance-Prison-Security-Police State Complex, which has been expanded and enriched under this scheme.

— J Thomas Gaffney

This is one of the reasons I believe in the decriminalization of drugs. If you stuck the money you spend on jail into clinics that help people wean off this stuff, you’d probably put a lot of drug dealers out of business. You’d also prevent theft and other things that happen when users feel sick and need a fix. They’d go to the doctor, get a fix and an offer of help, then leave. And many dealers are addicts, too. If you shut down the business of drugs and its party atmosphere, you don’t need jails. Addiction is a medical issue, not a legal one.

So we should stop all these silly incarcerations and treat the real problem.

— William Worsham Writes

If it weren’t for pinhead liberal judges just slapping the wrist of felons, mandatory minimums wouldn’t be necessary.

— Mike Herman

Main program teaches kids about substance abuse, bullying

Letter to the editor:
As municipal court judges, we see many defendants who are indigent. If a court does not perform indigency hearings and thus does not offer payment plans or community service, it is possible for an indigent defendant to end up in jail for failure to pay the fine.

When issued a ticket by law enforcement, all defendants have the right to see a judge and enter a plea before any money is ever owed to the court. Courts have a duty to hold indigency hearings and pursue alternatives to fines, such as community service.

If performing community service causes a defendant an undue hardship, judges are allowed to waive the fine. People should see our courts as a place where these alternatives exist; not a one-way ticket to jail.

I would urge all citizens to let us know how we can make our courts more accessible, and we as judges need to use all the tools available to prevent indigent defendants from going to jail. Being poor should not be a jail sentence.

Ed Spillane, president, Texas Municipal Courts Association; College Station, Texas

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