Louisiana Lawmakers Want to Increase Mandatory Minimums for Heroin Possession

Lawmakers in Louisiana want to double mandatory minimum sentences for heroin-related crimes in response to rising rates of use in the state. The bill passed its first round of votes without dissent and is now on its way for a full House vote, where it is likely to receive bi-partisan support. 

The bill would increase the mandatory minimum sentences for heroin manufacture, production, and distribution from 5 years to 10. More disconcerting, however, is the bill's guarantee of a two-year prison sentence for anybody found to be in possession of heroin. There are currently no mandatory minimum sentences for heroin possession in Louisiana. 

The "need" for the policy change is mostly being confirmed by law enforcement figures, who testified in front of lawmakers before they made a decision on the bill.

"Make it severe. Make people understand, 'You do heroin, you're going to do time,'" said Louisiana Sheriff Association Executive Director Michael Ranatza, as reported by Times Picayune.

Even some Democrats lined up to support the measure: "I've got to support this bill and the reason I've got to support it is I think it's a preventative measure," said state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, during the hearing.

Those opposing the bill also testified, citing the mountains of evidence that indicate harsher sentences do not curb drug consumption.

"Possession of heroin, to increase the penalties, which is contained in this bill, I believe is taking Louisiana back...This is a public health issue. We shouldn't be making criminals of people who have gone from oxycontin to heroin," said Robert Toale, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as reported by the Times Picayune.
Currently, Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration in the nation. 

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