Alabama courts have sent more people to prison for drug possession than for murder, manslaughter, rape, and robbery combined, reports the Birmingham News. Second to possession is drug distribution. None of the top five crimes for which people are sent to prison is a violent offense, says the Alabama Sentencing Commission. The agency has called for sending fewer nonviolent offenders to prison, to make room for violent criminals.
“The war on drugs needs to encompass what you do with them once you catch them, and obviously prison may not be the most effective alternative. Long-term drug treatment for some offenders may well be the most effective weapon in the war on drugs,” said Rosa Davis, chief assistant attorney general who works on the commission. The proposal, called Sentencing Standards, would involve a point system based on an offender’s current offense and criminal history. The commission’s report is one of several studies of the state’s prisons issued in recent weeks. The reports show that Alabama’s criminal justice practices are out of step with much of the country, giving the state the nation’s fifth-highest incarceration rate.