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by Peter Moskos

March 6, 2015

"13 Years in the Slammer ... for Two Joints?"

I'm generally quick to point out that there aren't too many people doing long time for small scale drug possession. (Usually this in the context of pointing out that drug decriminalization will not empty our prisons.)

But it does happen. And it shouldn't happen. Ever.

How is anyone in prison for 13 years for possessing two joints? It's possible if you're a "habitual offender" and in Louisiana:
In Bernard Noble's case, getting caught with a couple of joints morphed into more than 13 years behind bars because of the way the state's harsh marijuana laws intersect with its harsh habitual offender law (known colloquially as "the bitch.") Because Noble had two previous drug possession offenses, one 12 years old and one 24 years old, he fell under the purview of the habitual offender law.

Even though his current offense was trivial (pot is decriminalized in nearly 20 states and possession is legalized in four others and DC) and even though his previous offenses were low-level and non-violent, the statute called for the 13 years, without parole.

Taking into account Noble's minor criminal history, his work record, and his role as the breadwinner for a family with seven children, and making special note of his overpayment of child support to children not living with him, his sentencing judge departed from the statute and sentenced him to only five years. Orleans Parish prosecutors appealed the lower sentence to the state Supreme Court and got the 13-year sentence reinstated last year.
What is wrong with us?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like Mr. Bernard Noble would have made a wise choice in packing up the fam and moving to Cali or Colorado....there, he could have received "medical marijuana" and lived happily ever after.