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OUR VIEW: Time for tougher sentences

Sentencings in some high-profile cases have been a Rubik's Cube mystery lately. We don't understand how judges come up with their decisions, but we feel like there needs to be more consistency, and perhaps harsher penalties, with sentences. Two c...

Sentencings in some high-profile cases have been a Rubik's Cube mystery lately.

We don't understand how judges come up with their decisions, but we feel like there needs to be more consistency, and perhaps harsher penalties, with sentences.

Two cases we reported on last week especially got us thinking.

Donald London shot, injured and nearly killed a state Highway Patrol officer received a 40-year prison sentence for his role in the 2015 Kimball standoff, but Matthew Novak - who violently cut a woman with a knife and killed her in Woonsocket - got 30 years in prison.

Then, on Monday, a judge decided to sentence Albert Fischer, of Lake Andes, to only 60 days in prison for driving drunk and crashing his vehicle, which led to the death of his younger brother.

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When comparing each instance side by side, does any of that make sense?

We certainly don't believe so.

Again, we don't fully understand the process in which judges go through to make these hard decisions. Judges have a huge responsibility in holding the fate of a person's life when sentencing them for a crime, and we respect each of them for those duties.

Though, we wonder if South Dakota's crime rate has risen in recent years because many sentences aren't harsh enough. According to a report last month from the Attorney General's Office, South Dakota law enforcement agencies reported a total of 40,069 arrests, a 5.84 percent increase from 2014.

The vast majority of those crimes are not violent in nature, and many of them are drug-related. But we presume the people who receive light sentences for drug offenses are those who typically become violent offenders.

We appreciate judges who are up for the immense task we place before them, but maybe it's time we see some harsher sentences for violent crimes, and perhaps a tougher stance against drug offenses as well.

While some might argue stricter sentences wouldn't deter someone from committing an act that's already illegal, we believe the threat of longer prison terms for violent or repeat drug offenders couldn't possibly have a negative impact on the crime rate in South Dakota. And with a stronger deterrent in place, an individual might think twice about driving drunk, firing a gun at law enforcement officers or stabbing their housemate in the neck.

Related Topics: OUR VIEWCRIME
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