Attorney General Eric Holder called for overhauling the way in which the Justice Department prosecutes minor drug cases, announcing Monday that federal prosecutors will stop charging low-level drug offenders with crimes carrying strict mandatory minimum sentences.Holder noted that the rapid rise in the U.S. prison population has slowed in recent years. Still, “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.”
The announcement at the American Bar Association’s meeting in San Francisco will almost certainly help save many young black men from incarceration and leave an imprint on Holder’s legacy as the nation’s first black attorney general.
According to Justice Department, approximately 220,000 people are currently incarcerated, with nearly half serving time for drug related crimes. The bureau of prisons is operating at 40% above capacity and about a quarter of the department’s budget goes to prison-related operations.
Holder’s policy change will help reduce the population, which has grown about 800% since 1980, largely due to harsh drug sentencing.
The new policy affects federal prisoners and low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no connection to cartels, gangs, or other organizations. Judges will now be allowed to decide sentence length based on the individual and his or her history.
Sounds like a good move to me. Drug abuse is a social and mental heath issue before it becomes a crime problem, however. Help for people should be part of the plan, something like a national volunteer peer counseling program. Empower the community to lift itself up, get healthy, be productive, make art, etc.