WASHINGTON — Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson called Tuesday for President Clinton to grant clemency to possibly hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders.

Anderson told a Capitol Hill press conference that federal sentencing guidelines require punishment that often is far more severe than merited for minor drug violations. He said clemency by Clinton could be the first step to change those guidelines.

"President Clinton, during these last hours of your eight-year term . . . please take a stand against the waste and injustice of our destructive sentencing laws," Anderson said.

That continues a high-profile battle by Anderson against the traditional "war on drugs" and was why he was chosen as the main speaker at the clemency press conference called by clergy, policy groups and parents of nonviolent drug offenders.

Anderson has told several national audiences in the past year that politicians trying to appear tough on drugs put too much emphasis on punishment — and not enough on treatment and prevention. He also canceled the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in schools, saying it was ineffective.

At the press conference Tuesday, he specifically called for clemency for Utahn Cory Stringfellow, saying his case shows that federal sentences are unjust.

"Because of Cory's involvement with drugs during his teen years and early 20s, and because he panicked and fled just before sentencing, he was sentenced to 188 months — more than 15 1/2 years — to a federal penitentiary."

During the 5 1/2 years that he has served, Anderson said, Stringfellow completed a drug program and earned a master's degree in business administration.

"Five and one-half years is long enough for Cory to have spent in prison for his foolishness as a young man. For him to serve another 10 years would be wasteful, cruel and incredibly unjust," Anderson said.

He also noted, "Many politicians excuse their earlier use of drugs as being 'youthful indiscretions' — yet thousands of individual lives and families have been destroyed for making similar mistakes and getting caught."

Several Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee released, at the press conference, a letter to Clinton calling for clemency for up to 487 prisoners they said were identified as first-time, nonviolent, cooperative offenders.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., leader of that group, said, "President Clinton has one last opportunity to end the meanest, least human, least justified aspect of our federal criminal justice system: the outrageous, excessive jailing of nonviolent people who have harmed no one."

Frank added, "These people and their families should no longer be martyred by the demagogic politics of an illogical drug policy."

Anderson agreed, and called for rejecting "the phony, ineffective, feel-good elements of the war on drugs — elements such as outrageous minimum-mandatory and guideline sentencing."

He said emphasis on tougher penalties has not decreased drug use, but has swelled prison populations. "We must stop this insanity. We must stop this inhumanity," Anderson said.

Instead, he called to "commit our resources to prevention programs that really work, to good public health education, and to treatment programs."

He concluded that Clinton could "start the process of change by granting the commutation petitions of those who have been sentenced for unconscionable long terms for non-violent drug offenses."


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