Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen writes on his website about Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s opposition to a $100 million new prison.
Griffen agrees that more prison or jail beds isn’t a solution. He thinks crowding could be solved by the governor’s clemency pen for non-violent offenders serving time on drug or drug-related charges.
There is plenty of space for non-violent offenders in their homes, with their families, and in our communities if we simply exercise the moral courage and wisdom to treat them as our impaired neighbors rather than as predators. Governor Hutchinson should call other civic leaders, faith leaders, and everyone else to summon that courage and act with that wisdom. If he doesn’t, we will continue acting out the unjust and foolhardy mindset of the “war on drugs” that has been a curse on our society and a burden for countless persons and families for the past several decades.
Hutchinson is expected to outline his prison plan this week, a plan that includes facilities, parole, community re-entry, drug courts, sentencing and other aspects of the criminal justice system. Though a former prosecutor and drug enforcement administrator, Hutchinson is likely to surprise Griffen a bit with policies aimed more in a community-based approach than at tougher sentences and stronger limits on parole. This might even be Hutchinson’s “private option moment.” He might build a coalition of Democrats and thoughtful Republicans against a throw-away-the-key caucus. His record at the DEA gives some hope for that. Among others, he revealed some openness on the question of medical use of marijuana.