The US 'cannot incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation'
August 12, 2013 10:33 AM Subscribe
Sentencing reform for drug offences is expected be announced by the US Attorney General. Eric Holder
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will announce Monday
that he is mandating the Justice Department modify its policies so that certain non-violent drug offenders will no longer endure “draconian mandatory minimum sentences,” according to excerpts of his remarks to American Bar Association.
Holder wants to go further and work with Congress to return discretion to judges. This builds on other efforts towards mitigating the punitive "Three Strikes Laws
" such as the Smarter Sentencing Act
currently before the Senate.
Under the reforms, Mr Holder is directing US prosecutors who draft indictments for certain drug offences to omit any mention of the quantity of illegal substance involved, so as to avoid triggering a mandatory minimum sentence. Only non-violent offenders with no previous charges or ties to gangs or cartels will be affected.
Mr Holder is also expected to announce an expanded compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary circumstances and who pose no threat to the public. The policy is expected to include elderly prisoners who did not commit violent crimes and who have already served a significant portion of their sentences.
Some 47% of US prison inmates
have been incarcerated for drug offences, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- Black and Hispanic people are over-represented in the prison system, 37% and 34% respectively
- US prisons are operating at nearly 40% above capacity
- Some 219,000
federal inmates are behind bars
- The cost of incarceration in the US was $80bn (£50bn) in 2010
Source: Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons (via BBC