Holder to Ax 'Draconian' Drug Sentences
For low-level offenders not associated with gangs or drug rings
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2013 6:48 AM CDT
Updated Aug 12, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
Attorney General Eric Holder, left, attends a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, in observance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – Eric Holder is set to today to reveal what the Washington Post is calling the planned "cornerstone of the rest of his tenure": a revamp of federal prison policy. And one part of the overhaul—a big change to sentencing for low-level drug offenders—is getting a great deal of attention this morning. As Reuters reports, the attorney general is set to announce that those arrested for low-level, nonviolent drug crimes who aren't linked to gangs or drug rings will no longer face mandatory "draconian mandatory minimum sentences." An excerpt of his planned remarks:

  • "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... We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation."
Holder will outline his proposals, which have been months in the making, in a speech in San Francisco, where he's also expected to discuss a new policy that would shorten sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates. As the New York Times explains, he can enact some of his planned drug-sentencing changes himself, by advising federal prosecutors to omit quantity from their indictments in these cases, so as to avoid "triggering" a mandatory minimum. (For instance, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 mandates five years without parole for those possessing 5 grams of crack; by leaving out "5 grams," no automatic minimum would kick in.) But he'll also need Congress to approve legislation that would give judges sentencing leeway. Click for more on what Holder's planned changes will and won't accomplish.

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Showing 3 of 273 comments
NorCalHal
Aug 18, 2013 3:59 PM CDT
So if I read this correctly the feds will elliminate the mandatory harse sentencing for drug users involved in minor crimes and wait until they do more violent crimes before getting serious and really locking them up.
Lefty_Libby
Aug 13, 2013 12:48 AM CDT
While this is helpful, the real issue is that marijuana and similar substances like hashish should never have been criminalized in the first place.
Buckshot
Aug 12, 2013 8:05 PM CDT
All the private prison companies will start lobbying to putting pressure on our lawmakers to find a way around a very good idea for America and a bad idea for the greedy bastards who pull the strings.