Attorney David Chesley's Criminal Defense Blog

Eric Holder Proposes Changes in our Justice Department

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Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced a new policy in our Justice Department, under this new policy low level, nonviolent drug offenders who are not tied to gangs or drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences.

Holder revealed this new policy at the American Bar Association in San Francisco as part of a comprehensive prison reform package. He also introduced a policy that will reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates who are seeking medical attention and alternatives to prison.

“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason, while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.” Holder said during the bar association meeting.

The United States comprise of 5% of the world’s total population, yet a quarter of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated in the U.S. While the entire prison population has increased by a third since 1980, the federal prison population has grown by almost 800% since the same year.  According to Holder “It’s still growing, despite the fact that federal prisons are operating at nearly 40% above capacity.”

These new policies are being put in place in respond to both civil rights group who say long prison sentences have disproportionately hurt minority communities and to the overcrowding problem in our prisons. California state prisons are currently under court under to reduce their population by nearly 10,000 inmates.

Currently Holder has directed the 94 U.S. attorneys working for him across the country in order to develop specific and locally tailored guidelines to be used in determining when federal charges should or shouldn’t be filed.

Holder also spoke about the Justice Department working with the Department of Education “to confront the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and those zero-tolerance school discipline policies that do not promote safety,” instead these zero-tolerance policies are serving as gateways in the criminal justice system.

“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 said during his speech.

Supporters of Holder’s new policies have shown that this decriminalization would bring the country hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, this revenue could be used for health care, education and other government services.

The Department of Justice is currently looking into new way to identify drug offender, who instead of serving long prison sentences, may be better served by drug treatment and community service.

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