Are we about to follow Colorado’s lead?

Published 12:00 pm Friday, July 22, 2016

Perhaps this essay should begin with a presentation of my credentials, among which is not a degree from a law school.

I have, however, spent many hours absorbing the way a community should be policed. I’ve studied the town of Mayberry, watched Perry Mason, and more recently have researched the methods of lawmen and courts on Cops and Southern Justice. Thus, I feel quite comfortable in and confident about my view of law enforcement today.

As it has done in times past, the local newspaper listed a summary of cases heard and disposed of in the recent session of Circuit Court. The iteration of legal action in that court included settling dozens of cases of a variety of crimes, but my interest was drawn to one gang of malefactors —the guilty folks who were punished by being given parole instead of prison time.

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Incidentally, it must be noted that Mississippi is not as open to the use of illegal drugs as are Colorado and California. Hooray for our State is what I say to that! Many cases in the recent session resulted in the guilty being sentenced to attend drug court while some found their cases retired to the files. If they don’t commit the same crime again, they will not be tried; slip up and the first and second offense may be prosecuted.

The list of cases resulting in probation for the offender totaled 28. The last time I did this count months ago, the number was 32. Of those, most were for possession of illegal drugs, even for the intent to distribute said drugs. Again, the majority were for drug offenses, even felony drug possession. Other crimes included robbery, shop lifting, food stamp fraud, and forgery.

A myriad of curiosities emerge from reading that list. One is actually a question: May we assume that all these folks who got the gift of probation were first-time offenders?

We can only hope so. Most of the other offenses presented resulted in prison time.

Could it simply be that our legal system views drug crimes as being more forgivable than, say, assault or murder, which is true? Is our society on the brink of following Colorado’s lead and simply legalizing the possession and distribution of drugs? Might it be that time in a cell does not have much deterrent effect on the perpetrators of drug crimes, to the point where it’s pointless to incarcerate them? The sheer dollar saving to the State may be at the heart of so much leniency.

Perhaps it’s time to bring Andy Taylor and Joe Friday out of retirement. And don’t forget to make room on the bench for Judge Issac Parker.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at