Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech to the American Bar Association on federal sentencing policies “reflected a fundamental shift in thinking about crime and punishment at the highest levels of government,” says the New York Times in an editorial. “The harsher-is-better mind-set is giving way to a recognition that widespread incarceration is, as Mr. Holder put it, ‘both ineffective and unsustainable.’ Even if the historic decrease in violent crime is partly attributable to putting more people in prison, the nation is long past the point of diminishing returns,” the newspaper contends.
Holder’s Justice Department is playing catch-up to the states, which house a vast majority of the nation’s prisoners. Many states have reduced their prison populations and saved money without increasing the risk to public safety, says the Times. It cites Texas, which has cut sentences for drug and property offenses while expanding treatment of drug addiction and mental health treatment for prisoners. The newspaper says Congress should ratify Holder’s policy changes.