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Letter to the Editor: Panel needs to hold hearing on prison reform


Editor:

I saw where U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is outlining new policies for enforcing drug laws against non-violent offenders in an effort to reduce the amount of time one gets sentenced to prison, thereby reducing the number of prisoners in prisons and the associated costs.

I also saw where Holder was warned by Congressman Bob Goodlatte not to bypass his House Judiciary Committee in efforts at reform.

I found that curious and wondered what Goodlatte's committee had done with in regard to this issue. So, I looked back through the records of hearings conducted by his committee since Goodlatte became chairman. To my surprise, I did not find a single hearing held about prison reform or sentencing reform with regard to drug laws since the Republicans took over in 2010. Being a bit more curious, I wondered what received the most attention from Goodlatte and found more hearings held on regulation overreach or reform than anything besides immigration.

Why, I wonder, is the judiciary committee concerned about too many regulations on corporations? Then I saw hearings on "overcriminalization" and thought that maybe this was about sentencing reform. I was wrong. Seems Goodlatte's committee is concerned that some folks guilty of violating some regulations are also guilty of a crime. And you know we can't have that. Too many white collar folks in jail for violating a few seemingly unnecessary rules just would not look good.

Putting people who violate financial regulations in jail seems to bother Goodlatte's committee. Yet, putting poor people and people of color in jail for years for possessing some small amount of crack cocaine has not bothered him or his committee.

The Senate, however, is working on reforming mandatory sentencing and hopefully will force Goodlatte and his committee to hold a hearing on this issue even without Holder's help.

I doubt Holder is ignoring Goodlatte's committee. Rather, I suspect Holder is forcing Goodlatte and his committee to look at an issue he has heretofore ignore, as far as I can tell. But then, I just did a few minutes of research. I'm sure I missed something.

Michael Cash, Fort Valley


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