The Justice Department is expanding its recent mandatory sentencing reform. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that nonviolent, low-level drug offenders will no longer be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences.
Last Thursday, at a speech before the annual conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, Holder announced he had broadened the new policy to cover defendants who haven’t yet been convicted in drug cases that could lead to lengthy mandatory prison sentences.
Holder said the government should reserve the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers.
“By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety,” Mr. Holder said. “We can increase our focus on proven strategies for deterrence and rehabilitation. And we can do so while making our expenditures smarter and more productive.”
The policy applies to defendants who meet the following criteria: their offense was nonviolent; no weapon was used; the offense did not involve selling drugs to minors; the defendants are not leaders of a criminal organization and have no major ties to large-scale gangs or drug trafficking organizations; and they possess no significant criminal histories.
“Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case — do not serve public safety when they’re applied indiscriminately,” Holder told a criminal justice issues forum of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
This shift in federal policy follows efforts initiated in some states, including conservative South Carolina and Texas, to reign in taxpayer money that is being spent to incarcerate soaring numbers of nonviolent offenders.