Judge Mattson is correct in his message to the Legislature

Last week, the often outspoken Judge Doug Mattson offered some advice to and perhaps a slight scolding of the North Dakota Legislature.

Good for Mattson, because on a couple of serious issue, he was entirely right – and the state would be better if they heard his advice and acted on it.

In open court last week during a hearing for a man who had pleaded guilty to a second offense of possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, Mattson noted that drug addicts have been receiving lighter sentences in North Dakota courts thanks to legislative changes.

However, he said the state Legislature hasn’t provided adequate funding for drug treatment to go along with its requirements for presumptive probation in many drug cases.

As North Dakota rightly re-examines and reforms its sentencing and prison policies for those addicted to drugs, one does have to wonder why so little investment is made in assisting those with an addiction recover from their condition. What exactly is the benefit to the people of the state for lessening sentencing for those with addiction related crimes if they are then released into communities without there being enough resources to address their conditions; with those conditions being the impetus for criminal charges?

“It’s been a bit of a con game,” Mattson remarked.

Mattson is right. He said that in the absence of adequate treatment options, what is the benefit of the reduced mandated punishments?

Both Mattson and Minot Daily News are well aware of how many repeat offenders show up in court with repeat addiction related crimes at the same time North Dakota and our region specifically, don’t offer many recovery opportunities. What is the virtue of that? It might save taxpayer dollars in the short term, but not in the long term, and it certainly doesn’t benefit communities or families.

North Dakota needs an expansion of recovery opportunities.

Mattson is entirely correct. Minot Daily News applauds his willingness to assert the obvious and honest, even if others in power in the state disagree or offer only lip service to the idea.

What hope there is rests with Gov. Doug Burgum, who has personal awareness of the issue and has been an outspoken proponent of a better way to do things.

Additionally, Mattson took a slightly subtle shot at Marsy’s Law, the voter-approved “victims’ right” law advocated by out of state interests. It was an “apple pie” issue in the eyes of many. After all, who would oppose the idea of crime victims receiving enhanced rights? Other states adopted similar legislation, but which was adapted to their state constitutions, whereas North Dakota jumped on the virtual verbatim of the policy. Minot Daily News advocated against the policy, which among other things, now makes it more difficult for defense attorneys to provide adequate cases for their clients – at least without an additional legal process which of course costs taxpayer money and bogs down a legal system already overwhelmed.

Mattson is not out of the loop when it comes to the Legislature. Mattson served in the North Dakota House of Representatives himself from 1978 to 1982. He was the Ward County State’s Attorney between 1990 and 2002 and has served as a district court judge since 2002.

Minot Daily News believes that eventually our version of Marsy’s Law will be declared unconstitutional. Unlike our European predecessors, our legal system is based on the idea of presumed innocence and this law is anathema to that.

MDN salutes Mattson for his outspoken efforts for real justice and for appropriate reform.

Now if only his wise words will be heard and considered appropriately.

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