Plan to reduce federal drug sentences getting mixed reviews locally

Local authorities have differing opinions on Attorney General Eric Holder’s proposal to ease drug sentences and put more emphasis on treatment.

Holder says our nation’s prisons are being flooded with non-violent drug offenders because of mandatory prison terms. He wants federal prosecutors to get those offenders into treatment programs instead of charging some defendants with crimes that carry mandatory minimums.

“You have to look at each one the way they are, and society needs to have them taken care of appropriate and society can’t afford to lock them all up,” says Hon. Todd Bjerke, a La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge, “so we have to weigh and balance each individual as to where we think we can try to get the best results from the resources we have available.”

It’s a different story from the Sparta Police department. Chief Mike Kass says much of the crime in their city is directly related to drugs, which often times leads to violence.


Kass says people should be focused on getting a handle on the drug problem instead of saving money or cutting the jail population.

“I think it sends the message that we’re not taking drug crimes quite so serious anymore when in fact that’s kind of one of the leaders of crime in this area,” says Kass.

Currently, there are 219,000 inmates in federal prison. Forty-seven percent are there for drug offenses.