Discussing an ongoing Justice Department review of the federal sentencing system, Attorney General Eric Holder says that, “Focusing on punishment is not enough. The federal sentencing system must also embrace the resident's commitment to reducing recidivism and providing opportunities to offenders to become contributing members of society at the conclusion of their sentence.” Holder spoke yesterday on Capitol Hill at a symposium on the 25th anniversary of the federal Sentencing Reform Act, sponsored by Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice and the Congressional Black Caucus. Holder has asked Justice Department officials, including lawyers in U.S. Attorneys Offices, to take part in a Sentencing and Corrections Working Group chaired by the Deputy Attorney General.
The group is considering issues that include the structure of federal sentencing, including the role of mandatory minimums; eliminating the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine; and other unwarranted disparities in federal sentencing. Holder called for a “sentencing and corrections system that protects the public, is fair to both victims and defendants, eliminates unwarranted sentencing disparities, reduces recidivism, and controls the federal prison population. In doing so we must create a system that allows us to dismantle gangs and drug trafficking organizations that plague too many of our nation's streets, and that allows us to effectively combat offenses as varied as violent crime, child exploitation, sex trafficking, and financial fraud.” He added, “The desire to have an almost
mechanical system of sentencing has led us away from individualized, fact-based determinations that I believe, within reason, should be our goal.”