Attorney General Eric Holder will unveil a plan today that will reveal the Justice Department’s new policy for prosecuting non violent drug offenders, proposing changes to drug laws. These offenders will no longer face mandatory minimum prison terms. “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason,” Holder comments. “While the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”
During his speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, California, Holder will outline his plan to change sentencing practices for non violent drug offenders across the country. Under this new policy more non violent drug offenders will received drug treatment and community service.
Excerpts of Holder’s speech have been released by the Justice Department: “I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent 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.” New anti-drug laws were passed in the 1980s and 90s and these laws have led to a higher percentage of the population being imprisoned in comparison to other large countries.
Holder will also reveal plans to establish guidelines that will determine if offenders should be subject to federal charges. Holder will mention legislation currently being proposed in congress that is, “aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimums to certain drug offenders.”
Many leading Conservatives such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and activist Grover Norquist, have rallied for a change in these laws because, in part, of the costs of the prison system on individual state budgets. Support from prominent republicans will be important if the Obama administration hopes to see legislation pass Congress.
Recently, many states have altered their laws in order to imprison fewer people. Crime rates have decreased in most major urban cities and thus the public demand for long prison terms has subsided.
In his speech, Holder plans to refer to legislation proposed by Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), two of the Senate’s leading liberals, and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), two tea party favorites. The proposed legislation would allow judges more discretion in sentencing drug offenders.
“By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation, while making our expenditures smarter and more productive,” Holder says. Holder will also outline a plan for considering the release of “inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances – and who pose no threat to the public.”
Holder will also remark on how this new program will answer the concerns of many civil rights groups which have said that long prison sentences disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, “a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities” and that “many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons will also reveal new guidelines that will allow the early release of many inmates who are elderly or who need “compassionate release” due to medical issues. “Clearly, these strategies can work,” Holder say. He will cover recent efforts in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii. “They’ve attracted overwhelming, bipartisan support in ‘red states’ as well as ‘blue states.’ And it’s past time for others to take notice.”
Take a seat and stay privy to the transformative stand Attorney General Eric Holder is taking in his proposition to change the current drug laws. These changes will affect millions of people across the United States, and maybe even someone you know.
By Karen Walcott