The debate about a punitive versus treatment-based approach to drug-related crime continues, while city and county officials continue to discuss the best path to move forward and at what cost.

US Attorney Christopher Myers announced that over the last 24 months, 37 people have been charged or sentenced in connection with heroin and/or fentanyl related crimes in federal court in North Dakota.

“We have prosecuted more fentanyl-related cases in federal court in North Dakota in the past two years than in the previous 10 years combined,” Myers said.

Locally this week, one case before the court involves several charges related to drug trafficking, including an A felony for manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Court documents don’t identify the specific drug or drugs involved with the case, though both opioids and meth cases are common in district court.

An A-level felony carries with it a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

 Myers reports that courts have doled out centuries worth of sentences for drug trafficking and related offenses, including a life sentence for Brandon Hubbard, who was prosecuted for dealing drugs that led to at least one death.

“The average sentence for the above cases is roughly nine-and-a-half years in federal prison,” Myers added.

The county has recently undertaken a discussion about treatment options for mentally ill and addicted offenders, and Lake Region Law Enforcement Center director Rob Johnson told the Journal last week that he plans to address the commission on the issue at next Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The region has struggled with the issue for years, and officials from city leaders to attorneys and local judges have called for more options to deliver treatment to those who suffer from various issues.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed a desire to roll back the clock several decades by bringing back mandatory minimum sentences, which some argue safely puts away dangerous offenders for life instead of letting them out on parole, while others point out the country’s high incarceration rates compared to other countries.

The punitive versus treatment-based approach debate continues, while city and county officials continue to discuss the best path to move forward and at what cost.