Holder Urges More Drug Courts, Says “Reform Has Not Made Us Less Safe”


Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has urged Congress not to let slip away “a historic opportunity” to overhaul federal drug sentencing laws and said lawmakers should consider further changes if pending legislation is approved, the Washington Post reports. In a rare public address since stepping down in April, Holder yesterday defended the Obama administration's effort during his six years as head of the Justice Department to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement and reverse an explosion in prison populations and costs. “The system as we know it,” he said, “cannot be economically sustained.” Holder said, “Unless we act quickly — and unless we act expansively — we risk letting this moment pass. More needs to done.”

Among a list of recommendations, Holder called for added funding within five years to pay for federal drug courts in every U.S. district to provide alternatives to incarceration. He called for the elimination of sentencing disparities that still penalize crack more harshly than cocaine and for increased spending on reentry programs for ex-offenders. Holder also continued a divisive debate within the Obama administration over statements by FBI Director James Comey last month that suggested that heightened scrutiny of police might be making some police less assertive in their work and be leading to rising crime in some cities. “Reform has not made us less safe — this is simply a fact,” Holder said. “Contentions to the contrary I believe are based on outdated ideology or simple fear of change. To the extent that we have seen a rise in crime in some places this calendar year, it is not as a result of reform efforts.”

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