The number of federal drug cases that were prosecuted in the last year dropped by 6 percent, says Attorney General Eric Holder. During the same period, the number of drug cases in which federal prosecutors pursued “mandatory minimum” sentences dropped from about 64 percent to 51 percent, which Holder pointed to as success for his new “smart on crime” policies, the Washington Post reports. Holder told federal prosecutors in 2013 to avoid specifying drug quantities when they charged low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.
That would keep from triggering long, mandatory minimum sentences, which are generally determined by the quantity of drugs involved and limit the discretion of federal judges in their sentencing. “While old habits are hard to break, these numbers show that a dramatic shift is underway in the mindset of prosecutors handling nonviolent drug offenses. I believe we have taken steps to institutionalize this fairer, more practical approach such that it will endure for years to come,” Holder said. Before his policy was implemented, the average suggested minimum prison term for someone charged with a drug crime was 96 months. A year later, the average guideline minimum has actually risen to 98 months.