Federal Drug Sentencing Changes Similar To Arkansas Law

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(Memphis) Tax payers spend $80 billion a year on federal prisoners.

The Department of Justice says jails all around the country are full of convicted drug offenders waiting for room to open up at a state or federal prison.

They say loosening the drug sentencing guidelines could help with that problem.

It`s all a part of a prison reform package the Obama Administration is taking on, hoping lawmakers will approve it. The plan doesn`t punish drug offenders, who have no ties to gangs or big time drug dealers with charges, by sending them to prison.

The new plan saves room in prison for the high level and violent drug traffickers.

An Arkansas state law very similar to this federal plan is already in place.

It puts first time non-violent offenders on probation instead of jail.

We spoke with District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington who`s in Jonesboro and he claims the law cuts down on inmates, but it wastes manpower and tax dollars because they have to keep arresting the same people over and over.

“It generally has to be a multiple time offender before we can send them to the penitentiary on drug charges,” said Ellington.

J`Meco Davis was locked up on drug charges and believes his time in jail was the wakeup call he needed, but he thinks jobs not jail time is the real issue.

“They`re not trying to give me my own thing so I`m going to be my own boss. Put enough jobs out here for the population,” said Davis.

The federal plan saves tax payers billions, but this some Memphians told News Channel 3 they believe some people may need to go to jail to learn a lesson.

The new plan takes the amount of drugs an offender has on them out of the charging mix. It also lets elderly drug offenders who have served a lot of time out of prison.