Attorney General Eric Holder feels that long, mandatory prison sentences for drug offenses have “flooded the nation’s prisons” and cost communites tons of dollars on fighting non-violent crimes. “If Holder’s policies are implemented aggressively, they could mark one of the most significant changes in the way the federal criminal justice system handles drug cases since the government declared a war on drugs in the 1980s.”
For starters, Holder is instructing federal prosecutors to discontinue charging nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that hold mandatorny minimum sentences. Holder will also work with a group in Congress to allow judges more discretion in sentencing.
At this time, federal prisons are operating at 40% above capacity; since 1980, prison populations have grown by close to 800%. Along with that, close to half of those inmates are there for drug-related crimes. “Holder said he also wants to divert people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment and community service programs and expand a prison program to allow for release of some elderly, non-violent offenders.”
This is all coming about due to the view that mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent defendants do not promote justice and do not serve public safety. The view is also focused on allowing federal judges to have more flexibilty with sentencing these defendants.
Of course, there are some nay-sayers regarding Holder’s push. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has stated that Holder “cannot unilaterally ignore the laws or the limits on his executive powers. While the attorney general has the ability to use prosecutorial discretion in individual cases, that authority does not extend to entire categories of people.” In addition to this, others feel that the issue of the law being changed would be best decided by Congress and the president.
An implementation of Holder’s policies would benefit African-Americans and Hispanics the most. This is because African-Americans make up about 30 percent of federal drug convictions annually and Hispanics account for 40 percent.
If the policies are put into effect, the changes will also impact prisoners on the state level. According to the Department of Justice, 58% of state drug offenders have no history of violence.
Holder feels that spending less money on incarcerating nonviolent drug prisoners would benefit communities because it will allow them to spend those funds on more law enforcement agents, prosecutors and intervention/prevention programs. During his speech to the American Bar Association, Holder said “we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate — not merely to convict, warehouse and forget.”
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, you will need to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area. One of the Myrtle Beach criminal lawyers at The Mace Firm is ready to speak with you about your case. Call one of the federal criminal lawyers to schedule your free consultation.
Our Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer spends a significant amount of time in criminal courts throughout the country. There are criminal lawyers all over the United States, but few practice criminal defense in Charleston, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Columbia and several other areas of the country.