Monday August 12, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who are not involved with gangs or drug cartel will no longer be charged with offenses that lead to minimum mandatory sentencing. This new proposal is part of a prison reform package that is also aimed to reduce sentences for elderly nonviolent inmates who show no threat to the community.
“We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation,” Holder announced Monday. The plan includes allowing judges to have more discretion when applying mandatory minimum sentences to offenders, and instructing prosecutors on ways to write their criminal complaints when charging the offenders to avoid the minimum sentences as well.
U.S. federal prisons hold more than 219,000 inmates, making the prisons 40% over capacity. The U.S. is also responsible for the incarcerations of a quarter of the world’s prisoners according to the facts Holder presented Monday.
According to The Washington Post, the cost of incarceration in 2010 was $80 billion dollars. With approval of Holder’s proposal, it is projected that hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue would be salvaged and used towards education, health care, and other government services.
Holder’s proposal is a significant change to The Anti-Abuse Act of 1986. After President Reagan signed the drug bill, $1.7 billion dollars was allocated to new prisons, drug education, and drug treatment to fight the war on drugs. Mandatory minimum sentences were also established as penalties for drug offenses: possession of at least one kilogram of heroin or five kilograms of cocaine will land an offender a minimum of ten years in prison, and a five year mandatory sentence for any offender who deals at least five grams of crack cocaine.
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