Houston Judge Michael McSpadden once believed that long sentences would deter drug sales and drug use. After more than two decades hearing felony cases, the former prosecutor wants the governor and legislature to cut sentences for low-level drug possession, reports the Houston Chronicle. “These minor offenses are now overwhelming every felony docket, and the courts necessarily spend less time on the more important, violent crimes,” he wrote to Gov. Rick Perry. Nearly twice as many defendants in Houston’s Harris County were sent to jail last year for possessing under than 1 gram of a drug than in Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar counties combined. McSpadden would make delivering or possessing a small amount of drugs a Class A misdemeanor carrying no more than a year in jail.
A spokeswoman said that Gov. Rick Perry “is willing to look at anything that the Legislature presents him, and he wants to hear the debate in the legislature about the pros and cons of the issue.” District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said state law makes no distinction between residue and up to a gram of a drug. Under state law, a person caught with either should be charged with possession of less than 1 gram. “That’s what the law says we should do,” he said. “We don’t get to make the facts. We don’t get to change the law.” Police officials said McSpadden is oversimplifying a complex problem. The police department said it goes after low-level dealers and buyers when neighbors complain they cannot go outside because there is an open-air drug market or a parade of addicts buying drugs from a store or home.