Attorney General Eric Holder and others are urging further reductions in America’s incarceration rate and the length of prison terms, and NPR reports a burgeoning “sea change” in criminal justice policy. Over the past few weeks, lawmakers have introduced bipartisan measures that would give judges more power to shorten prison sentences for nonviolent criminals and even get rid of some mandatory minimum terms altogether. The war on drugs has had the “unintended consequences” of decimating some minority communities, Holder said.
The Justice Department had a group of lawyers working behind the scenes for months on proposals the attorney general could present as early as next week in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. Some of the items are changes Holder can make on his own, such as directing U.S. attorneys not to prosecute certain kinds of low-level drug crimes or to spend money on treatment instead of prison. The trend against mandatory minimums has taken root in nearly two dozen states, including Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas.