Idaho Lawmakers Consider Rolling Back Mandatory Minimums For Drug Crimes

Feb 16, 2017

State lawmakers are considering putting an end to mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. The proposal has bipartisan support, but still has several hurdles to jump before becoming a law.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, says she first became aware of issues surrounding mandatory drug sentences when she spoke with judges around the state. The Boise lawmaker says Idaho’s standards are more stringent than they need to be, going above and beyond federal statute.

“These minimums have been in effect since the peak of the War on Drugs," says Rubel. "I think they were put in in 1992. And we’ve seen virtually no deterrence effect; we’ve only seen drug use and drug offenses skyrocket since that time.”

Rubel says the state spends more than $7 million a year imprisoning people for non-violent drug offenses under the current system. The co-sponsor of the bill is Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa. 

“There’s really significant bipartisan support for this, so I’m really optimistic that Idaho may be ready. Because it’s expensive.”

But the bill has received pushback from some at the statehouse, who say the mandatory minimums are a drug deterrent and correctly target criminals. The next step for the bill is a public hearing.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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