DENVER (CBS4) – In an effort to ease prison overcrowding some federal convicts will be put in drug treatment and community service programs.

U.S. attorneys in Colorado and around the country are being ordered by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to charge low-level drug offenders with less serious crimes that carry lesser sentences.

“We need to insure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate, but not to merely warehouse and to forget,” Holder said.

Vince Turnbull is a former methamphetamine addict who did time, but he does not believe letting users bypass lengthy sentences is the answer.

“The benefit of going to prison definitely — it gets you sober, and then it will also give you the resources in order to come out,” Turnbull said.

He is one of those in the Step 13 rehabilitation program in downtown Denver.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is a former U.S. attorney. He is on the same page with his federal counterpart – to a point.

“We shouldn’t embark on a public policy because the attorney general thinks it’s a good idea,” Suthers said. “Hopefully Congress is going to get on board too.”

But Kerry Norris, who was a meth addict for eight years, disagrees with Holder’s plan.

“I think it’s a wreck waiting to happen,” Norris said. “I think you are going to have more drug trafficking on the streets, and everything else, because now they’re not looking at 16 years.”

Colorado is already ahead of the federal government in some ways by decriminalizing some drug-related crimes, which eases the pressure of putting even more people behind bars.


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