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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

3-strikes convicts may be paroled

Kansas prison officials say life sentences too harsh in drug cases

April 22, 2004

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Kansas prison officials on Wednesday urged the courts to reduce the sentences of two inmates serving life sentences for cocaine possession.

Inmates Gloria VanWinkle, 44, and Paul Goseland, 51, were given life sentences in 1992 and 1993, respectively, under the state's old "three strikes" law. Both had been caught for a third time with small amounts of cocaine; neither was accused of selling drugs.

Shortly after Goseland's sentencing, lawmakers adopted a system of sentencing guidelines. If convicted of the same crime today, Goseland and VanWinkle would be sentenced to no more than 17 months and would have been freed more than a decade ago.

"I recognize and respect the legislative intent for the law which existed when inmates VanWinkle and Goseland were sentenced," Department of Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz said. "That statute, however, has been repealed."

Currently, almost 900 Kansas inmates are in prison on first-, second- or third-time possession charges.

Werholtz said he would give "careful consideration" to other inmates in circumstances similar to Goseland and VanWinkle's.

Department officials filed motions for modifying Goseland and VanWinkle's sentences on Wednesday in Sedgwick and Geary counties.

Goseland is from Wichita; VanWinkle is from Junction City.

If upheld, Goseland would be eligible for parole Sept. 30; VanWinkle on Aug. 13. Their release would require approval of the Kansas Parole Board.

"I'm very surprised, considering how long this has been going on and how hard it's been to get people to listen. I'm overwhelmed, but I'm extremely happy," said Goseland's brother, Leo. "This is long overdue."

Recent stories in the Journal-World about the VanWinkle and Goseland cases detailed the sentencing discrepancies.

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