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Serving the Austin community since 1975 SAVE AND SUSTAIN BOOK-WOMAN Help save an endangered species: The independent women’s bookstore For details go to “Over time, the public has realized that draconian punishment of minor drug offenses as state jail felonies is not working, and as judges, we hear countless complaints from trial juries and grand juries that do not believe these cases should be tried as felonies,” the judges write. Instead of packing drug abusers off to crowded state jails, where there are no treatment options, why not focus resources on getting them help at the outset? Specifically the judges call on the Legislature to reduce possession of less than a gram of drugs from a felony offense to a Class A misdemeanor, and to mandate treatment. \(In a sly footnote, the judges go one better: reclassify the crime as a Class C misdemeanor, which would carry only a fine and “result in enormous savings to the Legislature should consider creating and funding misdemeanor drug treatment courts, which they argue would be cheaper and produce fewer recidivists than prison time. Criminal justice reformers are hailing the recommendations as a watershed. “What this represents is a shift from this status quo of lock ‘ern up and throw away the key,” says Ana Yariez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, “to a smart-on-crime approach that yields real results to meet Texas’ public safety needs:’ Judge McSpadden is no softie. In the early ’90s he created a national stir when he called for the castration of a repeat rapist. But after two decades on the bench, he’s fed up. “The `War on Drugs’ isn’t working, and we as judges realize it,” McSpadden told the Houston Chronicle. He’s not alone. In a survey of 244 Texas judges by three criminal justice organizations, a large majority expressed the need for more funding for addiction-treatment programs. Forrest Wilder FEBRUARY 6, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7