We’ve all heard of fake news. Well, what about news that’s deceiving?
For the past few weeks Right On Crime (ROC), from Texas, has been on a tear to push their criminal-justice reform ideas in Florida.
And why not, they’re entitled as much as anyone else.
But, we shouldn’t let them pontificate with half-truths, with polls we don’t know what questions were asked, and using anecdotal evidence to justify their position.
Someone needs to call them out and the Florida Smart Justice Alliance is doing that.
ROC wants to undercut Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS), 893.135, F.S., which is designed to prosecute drug TRAFFICKERS for selling drugs and making a profit.
So, what about those half-truths?
Well, first they continue to advertise themselves as a group of “conservative” organizations, and for sure there are some conservative groups on their side. The fact that it’s in the first sentence of almost every press release or column would lead you to believe that their group is made up of only conservative organizations.
You’d be wrong.
They also have the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU on their side, but it’s interesting that they never publicize that fact. Are they ashamed or are they just trying to make everyone believe this is a conservative movement, because not all conservative groups align with ROC's desires.
When I was at Associated Industries of Florida and we delved into criminal justice reform -- statewide expansion of juvenile civil citations -- I refused to allow SPLC’s name to be affiliated with AIF on our white paper, so I’m being consistent on that score.
Last month at ROC’s capital press conference they stated that MMS reform will send fewer people to prison.
Uh, wrong again.
The same number of people will still be going to prison, they’ll just be going for shorter periods of time.
They also said that their intent was to protect drug abusers from the inflexibility of MMS and not treat them like drug kingpins.
Smart Justice has always supported helping drug abusers by supporting appropriate behavioral healthcare funding for substance abuse, mental health, co-occurring disorders, diversion programs, etc.
However, there’s a huge difference between a druggie and a pusher.
Druggies want to satisfy themselves.
Pushers are those who sell, deal, or trade drugs for a living -- for profit. In some cases, they’re even purveyors of death.
You know, the pushers are the ones who sell drugs to kids so they become lifetime customers.
As any “businessman” knows, to meet demand, you must have supply.
Unfortunately, the law that ROC and others are trying to amend isn’t the law on possession of drugs, it’s for dealers who have volume.
Well, for pot, you’re talking at least 25-2,000 pounds to meet the minimum threshold for trafficking.
It would take an abuser about a year to smoke a pound of pot -- about what you could stuff in a child’s backpack -- and over 20 years to smoke just the minimum of 25 lbs.
No abuser I know of, and I’ve known many over the years, keeps 25 pounds around. Why?
Because most abusers don’t have $50,000 lying around to invest in a personal stash. If you had 2,000 pounds, you’re looking at more than $4 million.
Nope, that’s not using, that’s dealing.
And yet ROC and others want us to be lenient with these drug dealers so that they don’t have to serve their full sentence in prison.
They want the judge to be able to cut a sentence by up to two-thirds.
Yep, you read that right. They want drug dealers to get a lighter sentence.
Why two-thirds? Why not one-third? Why not one-half?
The proponents don’t justify their legislation, they just want the person selling to get a nice rollback of their sentence, to be soft on crime.
Hey, maybe they’ll stop dealing drugs when they get out?
I hear you, pot -- that’s not a real problem.
Well, they want to change the trafficking statute also for cocaine, amphetamines and even LSD, along with a host of other drugs.
I hate to be repetitive, but the amounts of coke, speed and acid that one must have to be a trafficker, isn’t what an abuser possesses.
A minimum of 28 grams of coke, 14 grams of speed and 1 gram of acid are all way beyond the lethal dose and beyond the financial capacity of most druggies unless you’re a lawyer, doctor or other professional who makes a lot of money.
When Families Against Mandatory Minimums – I wonder which traffickers, they represent – testified earlier this week, they recited from a book called Dream Land. How appropriate, with individual stories about Jack B., Sara H., Charley M., you know, to protect the identities of the traffickers.
They didn’t present any statistics. No data. No relevant numbers that would even tell us how much of a problem handcuffed judges have when they want to go soft on a trafficker.
Nothing. Nada. Zero.
At a time when the mantra in the Florida Legislature is to base policy decisions on evidence, the proponents have none.
As for the poll, I must hand it to them, they've got a real star pollster to do a poll. Congrats.
But you know what I learned decades ago? If you want the public to believe your poll, you must release the actual question asked.
They released a synopsis of the question saying that 72 percent or whatever of Floridians support going lenient on drug abusers.
Right, but I bet they didn’t ask their question using the words “drug trafficker.” Of if they did, I bet they didn’t put the question in context.
Like, “If a drug trafficker broke into your home while you weren’t there, and stole $3,000 worth of your jewelry and electronics and you never got it back, are you in favor of reducing their sentence after they got caught with $100,000 of acid?”
No, I think not.
And therein lies the problem.
To suggest that Floridians want to go easy on drug traffickers is frankly, laughable.
Florida is a tough state, with the lowest crime rate in more than 40 years.
We didn’t get there by asking our sheriffs, police officers and state attorneys to go easy on drug dealers.
No, Floridians expect government to make public safety Job No. 1, and the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have done just that.
So, the next time you hear that the public wants to reduce sentences for traffickers, just remember, you need to see the questions.
When a poll is kept secret, and the questions not revealed, the crosstabs aren’t provided, then those of us who have been around politics for a while know something doesn’t smell right.
I respect all the legislators who support MMS revision, because I believe they’re sincere.
I also believe, they’re wrong.
Smart Justice will fight this “camel's nose under the tent” to make sure drug profiteers, people who sell drugs to children and other abusers, will never become law in this state.
Barney Bishop III is the president and CEO of Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a 501(c)(6), a law enforcement-centric, non-profit dedicated to criminal justice reforms that put public safety and common sense at the top of the agenda.