The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week on sentencing reform. One of the witnesses was Debi Campbell, who was sentenced to 19 years in a federal penitentiary for selling meth. One of her colleagues in the meth trade was busted by the police first–so that person cut a deal and agreed to testify against Campbell. Federal authorities rewarded that drug offender with zero jail time.
Conservatives sometimes argue that longer prison sentences will “send a message” to the community and deter drug offenders. Ms. Campbell’s testimony offers a dose of reality on that one. She says she knew selling meth was against the law, but had no idea she could face close to 20 years in prison for what she was doing. She was hooked on meth and was selling to support her addiction. She was not reading the Congressional Record to see what messages Congress was sending.
Another conservative argument is that long prison sentences will incapacitate the offender. That holds true for a rapist, but one wonders how the community was made safer by keeping Ms. Campbell locked up for so many years. But there’s a former federal prosecutor out there who probably thinks he did good work on Ms. Campbell’s case.
Check out Ms. Campbell’s testimony. Only 7 minutes, but powerful.