Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.
The new Justice Department policy is part of a comprehensive prison reform package that Holder unveiled in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. He also introduced a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.
“A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder said Monday. (Excerpts of his prepared remarks were provided Sunday to The Washington Post.) He added that “many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems rather than alleviate them.”
It is clear that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason,” Holder said. “We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation,” he added later in the speech.
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“A minor school disciplinary offense should put a student in the principal’s office and not a police precinct,” Holder said.
Although the United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated in American prisons, according to the Justice Department. More than 219,000 federal inmates are behind bars, and almost half of them are serving time for drug-related crimes.
Holder said he has also revised the department’s prison policy to allow for more compassionate releases of elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes, have served significant portions of their sentences and pose no threat to the public.
this is a good start