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Sunday, October 23, 2016

In a speech on Monday before the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric Holder called for major reform in the federal criminal justice system and the way it prosecutes drug offenders.

Holder’s speech specifically tackled the mandatory minimum sentencing policies that the government has long used when condemning drug offenders — even those considered “low-level” and “nonviolent.”

“Certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences. They now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins,” Holder explained.


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He added: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.”

The Attorney General called attention to the “ineffective” and “unsustainable” “widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels,” one that he notes “imposes a significant economic burden, totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone.

Further complicating the situation are studies that find that many drug offenders prosecuted with the harsh sentencing are grappling with substance abuse and poverty.

“Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it,” Holder remarked.

The initiatives, part of Holder’s larger “Smart On Crime” plan, would reserve mandatory minimum sentences for more serious, high-level, and usually violent drug traffickers.

Holder is not the first to comment on the rapidly growing incarceration rate, which has been increasing in no small part due to harsh punishments for low-level criminal offenders that stem from mandatory minimum sentences.

Holder joins Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on a proposal that would allow judges greater sentencing flexibility in cases that would normally use mandatory minimum prison terms.


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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • Robles48

    It’s about time that Wasington changes the tactics in the never ending and unwinnable war on drugs. While they’re at it maybe they can take a look at the 53 year old Cuban embargo and reconsider how successful it has been. Ten US presidents thought we could force Castro out of power by making life difficult for Cubans. Nine of those presidents have left the White House but the Castros are still smoking their cigars in Havanna and laughing at our foreign policy.

    • Dominick Vila

      I think it is also important to point out that most civilized nations are ignoring our embargo, investing in Cuba, and the only losers from a financial perspective are us. Instead of encouraging people to oust two ruthless dictators, the embargo emboldened them when the general population felt threatened by outside interference and rallied behind two people they don’t like.

  • Mikey7a

    Oh boy! This is NOT going to sit well with the FOR PROFIT jail systems in place here in Florida counties. Where I live, a criminal judge is also part owner of the County Jail! Places like where i live, will undoubtedly fight any reform, tooth and nail.

    The stupid, stupid, stupid, War on drugs, has been a miserable failure since it’s inception. So many poor black, and white for that matter young men, have been incarcerated, and the guys really making the money off of the drugs, remain free, some of them, the very people responsible for putting away our young men in the first place!

    • RobertCHastings

      Man, that is scary. Are judges down there elected or appointed? And how in the name of common sense could a judge be allowed to have ANY degree of ownership in a prison? Oh, I forgot, the powers that be in Florida have NO common sense. 40 to 60 years ago, many Southern communities owned their own prison farms, where folks just passing through notoriously disappeared – the pre-civil rights equivalent of extreme rendition, I guess.

  • Dominick Vila

    When a young kid is found smoking pot there is a good chance he/she will end up in jail. When the company owned by a crook is found guilty of the largest fraud case in the history of the USA we elect him Governor. That’s the reality of this issue.

    • Fern Woodfork

      The Problem Is The Greedy Business Men And Companies Will Have To Hirer Everyday Citizens Cause They Was Using These Prisoners For Free Or Slave Wagers!! Great News!!! 🙂

    • Sand_Cat

      Actually Dominick, don’t forget the key point: a young black or poor kid is found smoking pot…

  • RobertCHastings

    The United States has both a greater absolute number of individuals in jail/prison and a higher percentage of overall population in jail/prison than virtually any other country in the world, and the Reagan mandatory drug sentencing laws are a major contributor to that. California has 3 months (?) to release thousands of prisoners from their system due to overcrowding. Hopefully, they exercise the good judgement to release ONLY those who are in for non-violent offenses, and perhaps get a leg up on what the DOJ is planning. Prison time for a single joint or two is ridiculous. Hopefully, this leads to a broad discussion about marijuana, at least, if not our arcane rules about recreational drugs in general.

    • Sand_Cat

      I think most states faced with this dilemma release the murderers and rapists in order to keep the drug offenders. After all, who’s the greater danger to society?

      • RobertCHastings

        I live in North Carolina and, I hate to say, I fear that our governor and state legislature WOULD actually turn the violent offenders loose, possibly in an attempt to swing the vote to the Republicans. Oh, wait a minute, the Republicans actually won in 2010 and in 2012. I feel so much better now knowing the Republicans in North Carolina have NO legitimate reason to release violent offenders instead of non-violent ones.

  • Germansmith

    About freaking time!!!

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Now, what is going to be done about all the lives and families these crazy laws has ruined over the past 30 years or so?

      Hush, better not say anything about that…………………

      • RobertCHastings

        Excellent question. When legislators or council members actually realize the laws they have created are not good and repeal/rescind, what recourse do those that have been harmed by those laws have under the law? Many states, when prisoners are exonerated and released from death row, the state will award them a set amount per year spent in prison (while some states make NO compensation). Most legislatures and commissions are constitutionally guaranteed immunity, unfortunately, from lawsuits. So, let’s say some poor sucker (probably black) has spent ten years of a fifteen-years sentence for a small amount of pot and the law is changed, resulting in his release. He is a convicted drug user, with not marketable skills, and the state turns him back out on the street. I probably shouldn’t even ask, but what is a very probable outcome?

        • Michael Kollmorgen

          The “system” considers these people as Collateral Damages. To nab one real crook, they ruin a dozen or so other lives.

          As far as I’m concerned, anyone should have the right to sue the state, its legislators, its prosecutors, the cops, the works.

          Right now, most of these people are totally immune from prosecution.

          The outcome of your situation is not good, never has been. That’s why the term “revolving door” means exactly that.

          • RobertCHastings

            Perhaps if laws were changed so that the folks who make such Draconian measures part of public policy became responsible for the negative consequences of their legislation, they might reconsider. Recently, the commissioners in my county passed a local ordinance making it legal for individuals to carry concealed weapons in public parks. Just a few years ago the city built a very nice, and large, soccer park, with about six separate soccer fields. I can envision ONE parent, armed, becoming upset with another individual during a hotly contested match between six-year olds, pulling out his legal concealed weapon, and shooting a referee (or coach, or player, or bystander), causing a shootout at the OK corral, in which, easily, more people are killed than at the Boston Marathon bombing, OR at the original OK corral shootout. Who will be responsible? I feel it is reasonable for those who made this behavior legally possible in the first place to be held accountable. As with the SYG law in Florida, those who make this kind of law without actually considering likely consequences should be held at least partially accountable. To even consider such legislation ONLY from the standpoint of “guaranteeing” the right to defend oneself is naïve, at the best, and just plain stupid. What have been the “unintended consequences” of the Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines” passed during the Reagan administration? Among others, overcrowded prisons and stretched budgets, as well as lives ruined when they could have been redirected.

  • roguerunners

    Big GIANT step in the RIGHT DIRECTION! This is going to save us taxpayers a lot of money!

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Yes, this is the right thing to do. But, the Prison/Justice Industry will find another category of victims somewhere else to fill the vacant spots in the cell blocks.

      The public isn’t going to save that much over the long term.

  • David Morgan

    The issue of unwarranted sentences for drug offenders who are not violent but “addicted” is based on a huge drug-enforcement “industry.” More people are paid to enforce inappropriate drug laws than any other criminal offenses. Prison guards, police officers, and whole groups of well-paid professionals earn their living based on these unworkable laws. The United States has the highest drug crimes population in the World and the American Tax payers are footing the bill. Keeping a person in state prison for years as the result of approaches to the problem, like the “Rockefeller Law” in New York State where first offense mandatory jail time does not work. Most drug abusers are impaired human beings who need psychosocial treatment and not mandatory but useless confinement in jail

    Let’s get real stop and stop using jail confinement as the major approach to drug-addicts. It simply does not work and has thousands of civil servants living on the tax payers money!


    David Morgan

  • FredAppell

    It’s about time we’re having this conversation. While it is true that some addicts have committed horrendous crimes, too many have been incarcerated for nothing more than
    possessing a gram of pot or cocaine, hardly a violent offense. Marijuana doesn’t even cause violent acts or petty crimes, it isn’t even addictive in the physical sense, it’s more of an emotional dependency and isn’t dangerous. That being said, if someone is arrested for it, they may find it impossible to get employment which may lead to a more serious crime or simply turning to government assistance for the rest of their life.

    • TerryW

      That is so true. And along those lines, all of these drug testing policies by companies these days is pretty invasive of a person’s privacy. What these companies are saying is ‘we own you even when you’re off the clock’. They don’t seem to care if you’re getting sloshed on booze every weekend, but God forbid you light up a joint and then it shows in your system for 30 days to as long as 90 days afterwards. Prescription meds are far more dangerous for ‘on the job’ work (and driving) but no one tests for those because, if prescribed, they’re legal. And really, who’s smoking pot while they’re working at Walmart or Home Depot anyway?? That’d be a good trick in itself. It’s smoke, and it smells.

      • FredAppell

        Hey, there’s a reason why we never hear in the news ‘pothead beats his kid, gets arrested’….it’s the anti-violent drug. Funny how things work out
        sometimes. If you really stop and think about it, most people are already high on something, some of them don’t even realize it and it’s just like you said, prescription drugs! These days, mom,dad and offspring are all tripping on something, it may not be the same drug they’re all using but the effect is the same 🙂 Obviously I draw the line with most drugs but Marijuana needs to be off that list, besides, it’s a cash cow too!

      • Sand_Cat

        How would anyone working at either of those places afford to pay for pot?

        • Michael Kollmorgen

          It don’t take a lot of pot to get high anymore. One Doobie can get several or more people up and flying. And, its not expensive considering you only need one joint.

          The stuff we used to smoke 30 years ago is lame compared to the stuff available today. Actually, it was a lot safer years ago. It gave you a nice mellow high and you got hungry as hell. Pizza and Lambrusco Wine was great with it. Pink Floyd and Moody Blues was always a good choice of music to listen too as well.

          The stuff now a days will knock you right off your feet.

  • tdm3624

    Sentencing reform at the federal level is a good start, but most people are incarcerated under state law. Maybe these reforms will serve as a blueprint for the states to adopt.