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Unusual Punishment: Potential Problems With the Trump Opioid Plan

An Anderson University professor says the death penalty part is problematic and other parts will have a tough time working.

STATE WIDE--Some parts of Pres. Trump's plan to fight the opioid national emergency may not work according to the law. Dr. Michael Frank, a political science professor at Anderson University, who's also director of the Center for Public Service, said some of the ideas the president talked about earlier this week will likely hit a few snags.

The most controversial

The most controversial part of the plan involved Trump saying the death penalty should be used if a dealer is determined to be responsible for someone dying as a result of drug use.

"If someone were convicted and then sentenced to death, I'm certain we would see a Supreme Court case and it would likely overturn that sentence on the basis of the Eighth Amendment," said Frank.

The Eighth Amendment provides for protection against cruel and unusual punishment, unfair punishment and excessive punishment.

"In order for this to work, you'd have to make a step that a person who is selling drugs is guilty of murder and therefore now subject to the death penalty," said Frank. That step does not exist now and the federal death penalty is rarely used. It is mostly reserved as a penalty for terrorism, he said.

"Even if a law were passed that said this is punishable by death, I think that law would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court."

The commission

Trump's plan to combat the opioid emergency came from the recommendations from a commission called last year.

"They came out with a report in November and the plan that Trump announced just the pother day is consistent with the recommendations of the commission," said Frank. He said the plan also falls in line with a Republican history on the "war on drugs".

Republicans have traditionally had a get tough on the dealers stance, along with an education component, and more recently a component that advocates for treatment of people who are addicted.

Problems with tougher sentencing

But there may be problems with tougher sentencing guidelines.

"A number of states, including Indiana, have already done that over the past few years," said Frank. "What we've seen over the last 30 years or so is that the stiffer sentencing guidelines contribute to the (jail) overcrowding problem that we face."

While the federal death penalty may not serve as a deterrent and some problems exist with enforcement in the criminal part of the plan, Frank said some of the plan that cut down on the number of opioid prescriptions should be pursued.

You'll read more about that tomorrow.

PHOTO: CNN Newsource

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