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Holder: Drug Sentencing Policy Changes Address Prison Overcrowding

Image: Holder: Drug Sentencing Policy Changes Address Prison Overcrowding

By Morgan Chilson   |   Monday, 12 Aug 2013 04:16 PM

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday new drug sentencing policies that seek to address overcrowded prisons that come with a high bill for taxpayers.

Calling it a “major shift in criminal justice policy,” the New York Times reported that Holder announced that prosecutors will, among other policy changes, avoid listing the amount of illegal substances in low-level drug case indictments to avoid mandatory sentencing requirements.

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During a speech at the American Bar Association annual meeting, Holder said "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason."

The new policy will affect nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to gangs or the big drug organizations and didn’t sell to minors, The Washington Post said.

Other changes are part of the prison reform that Holder announced to the ABA attendees. One policy will lower sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and consider alternatives to going to prison for nonviolent crimes.

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Holder said, according to The Washington Post. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

The Washington Post said Holder told his 94 U.S. attorneys nationwide to develop local guidelines for determining appropriate cases to file federal charges. The Justice Department also will work with the Department of Education and other groups “to confront the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and those zero-tolerance school discipline policies that do not promote safety,” the newspaper reported.

Mother Jones broke down the way the current law regarding mandatory prison sentences for drug crimes reads and also how states have shifted fair sentencing guidelines.

“Civil liberties advocates argue that these minimums are Draconian, expensive, and don't give judges discretion to make sure the punishment fits the crime,” Mother Jones said.

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Related stories:

Holder Rolls Back Drug Laws From Reagan’s “War on Drugs”

Seeking Sense on Sentencing

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