The question of whether drugs should be legalized was the topic of conversation at the Thursday, June 11 Sarasota Tiger Bay Club luncheon.
Former public defender Elliott Metcalfe served as moderator during the criminal-justice forum, and he asked the panelists, Sheriff Tom Knight, Police Chief Peter Abbott, Judge Lee Haworth and Judge Rick DeFuria, if legalizing drugs would help reduce overcrowding in the Sarasota County Jail.
DeFuria runs the county’s drug court, which focuses more on rehabilitation of drug offenders than incarceration. He said he used to think legalizing drugs might be a good idea, but he’s since changed his mind.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “People abuse prescription drugs, and they are legal.”
Abbott feared that legalization would create many more drug users.
“We don’t want a society of zombies,” Abbott said.
As an alternative, DeFuria suggested changing some of the sentencing laws.
During the forum, he held up several bags, each containing powder or pills that represented illegal drugs. Possession of those substances carry mandatory sentences of three years.
“We need to rethink some of these laws if we want to reduce the jail population,” DeFuria said.
Contact Robin Roy at email@example.com.
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