Get tougher laws

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 23, 2002

Insert name here.

It is a sad truth, but the police reports these days seem to be like form letters, with the charges, the places, the circumstances remaining the same. The extraneous details are simply plugged into a standard format. And now, more and more of the names remain the same. Time after time, the same people show up in these reports, from the initial arrest to the conviction. And yet, months after the convictions, we see those names again - on the arrest report –

and the cycle begins anew.

One instance is understandable - some people simply do not learn the first time. The justice system is supposed to be lenient with first offenders for that very reason. A second offense is pushing the envelope, and a third is inexcusable. Do we blame the transgressors themselves? Of course. But there are other sources of the problem, and one lies within the system itself.

Those who use and manufacture drugs

– the primary root of almost every crime in our community today - are sent through

the system like New Yorker through a subway turnstile

– as they go in, others come out, and before you know it, the first ones are out again. What ever happened to the "three strikes" concept?

We commend Attorney General Bill Pryor for his recent formation of a task force to look at white-collar crime laws and make sure they are stringent enough. We agree that these paper criminals are just as much in the wrong as the average meth cooker or crack dealer. But we sincerely hope that the recent corporate scandal publicity is not drawing funds or manpower away from other problems in this state. By all means, go after corruption in the ivory towers, but don't neglect crimes occurring on the streets.

Congress is examining drug laws that differentiate between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, with penalties for one – crack - being much higher than the other. This is wrong. Both drugs are illegal, both drugs create societal problems that reach far beyond one abuser.

If Pryor is going to examine white-collar crime more closely, we hope he will also devote the same energy to studying Alabama's current drug laws. They, too, need to be stricter for the sake of the public good.