Attorney General Eric Holder took his case for overhauling the criminal justice system to an unlikely location yesterday: a closed-door conference of prosecutors at their national training center in South Carolina, NPR reports. Holder urged an audience of criminal division chiefs from U.S. Attorney’s offices to support Smart on Crime initiatives that would cut some drug sentences and to open up the clemency process to hundreds of inmates with clean records in prison.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would cut some mandatory minimum penalties for non-violent drug offenders. At least three prominent groups have attacked the legislation, including nearly 30 former Justice Department officials who served under Republican administrations; longtime Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and even Holder’s own Drug Enforcement Administration chief. Holder addressed those concerns by pointing out that the bill, the Smarter Sentencing Act, would leave in place tough mandatory minimum sentences for most drug traffickers, with add-ons for people who possess weapons, are repeat offenders, or those who are considered leaders of a criminal racket.