Since he took charge, Attorney General Eric Holder has made sentencing guidelines and prison overcrowding his biggest priorities. Now, as a result of those priorities, several persons who have been convicted under federal drug laws could have their sentences shortened by as much as two years, under new moves announced by Attorney General Eric Holder.
The Attorney General recently praised an announcement by the Sentencing Commission, which voted unanimously to allow some persons convicted of federal drug offenses to return to court and seek a shortening of their sentencing. According to the statement by the Sentencing Commission, some federal drug offenders could have their prison terms cut by as much as 25 months. This works out to an 18.8% cut. The Sentencing Commission also approved changes to the criteria for persons who would be eligible for shortened sentences. Those criteria include the characteristics of the offender as well as the crime.
The Sentencing Commission believes that as many as 46,290 prisoners will be able to appeal to courts to have their prison terms cut short. According federal data, state governments across the United States spent a staggering $80 billion on the prison systems in their states. The country’s massive prison population problem cannot be denied. About one -third of the US Justice Department’s budget is eaten up by the Bureau of Prisons.
The Sentencing Commission’s statement comes after reassurances by Attorney Holder that persons convicted of nonviolent and low-level drug offenses would no longer be charged under stringent federal drug crime laws that impose mandatory minimum prison terms on offenders. The mandated terms mean that persons are convicted, and sent to prison even for nonviolent offenses like possession of small quantities of drugs.
Incarceration as a solution to drug crimes is a strategy that has completely failed in this country. It has torn apart families and destroyed societies and communities. Certain groups of people like African-Americans and Hispanics have been clearly found to be overwhelmingly victimized by these stringent guidelines. As large numbers of breadwinners have been sentenced to prison for minor drug crimes, thousands of children have ended up growing up in broken homes. The socioeconomic consequences of large-scale incarceration for drug crimes are only now becoming clear.