From Reuters, Attorney General Eric Holder is set to announce today that the Justice Department is reconsidering its formerly-hard-line stance on mandatory sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.
Holder will outline the status of a broad, ongoing project intended to improve Justice Department sentencing policies across the country in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco.
"I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department's charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels, will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences," Holder is expected to say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks provided by the Justice Department.I suppose we'll see what he means by "low-level" but at least it's a move toward saner policy. And it is refreshing to see a major news organization point out the problem in the next paragraph:
The United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than other large countries, largely because of anti-drug laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s.That problem, that violent and non-violent offenders are currently subject to the same "draconian" punishments, is a policy in direct contradiction with most definitions of justice and rather unnecessary since it takes away from judges the responsibility of making judgments.
And it's this failure to make distinctions on a case-by-case basis that leads to poor executions of justice, like the example I cited last week (although I've since found others had posted it perhaps a week earlier).
One should take caution to be too hopeful with the awful respect for civil rights demonstrated by the current and last few administrations. But, hey, it's a start...