Mistaken Parole of Convicts Stirs Debate over Meth Laws

APRIL 20, 2004 - Posted at 7:35 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Some legislators are questioning whether Arkansas' treatment of methamphetamine crimes is too harsh.

The Department of Correction mistakenly gave early release to 32 convicts recently.  The sentences of the inmates revived a debate over drug penalties that began in 1999 when legislators decided to require methamphetamine manufacturers to serve a mandatory 70 percent of their sentences.

Representative Jan Judy of Fayetteville says the sentencing laws have taken away the discretion of judges.

The state erroneously granted the 32 men early releases by misreading inmate intake forms.  Six remain on the loose.

Judy sponsored legislation adopted in 2001 to restrict and monitor sales of cold medicines with ephedrine and pseudophedrine, ingredients used in manufacturing meth.

Judy says she does not want dangerous people on the street but says judges should not be forced to treat all defendants the same way because each case is different.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)