Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Major Curtailment Of ‘Mandatory Minimum’ Sentences For Non-Violent Drug Offenses

In episode 4 of Left Call Radio, I spoke about America’s “prison-industrial complex” and how mandatory minimum sentences take discretion away form judges and juries. Mandatory minimum sentences do not make us safer. What these unnecessary and harsh sentences do is ruin the lives of people who commit low-level, non-violent drug offenses, while the rest of us can revel in our own righteous indignation. — Hey, I wouldn’t have committed that crime. So what do I care?

Today we learn Attorney General Eric Holder will make a change in policy “ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.” I believe Holder is showing human compassion when he said, “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.” It’s just unfortunate that this change in policy only happened as a result of overcrowding. It would be nice if empathy, humane treatment, and use of logic and discretion would go into all judicial decisions, not just when facing a logistical challenge.

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech said. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

But a win is a win, regardless of what cued the change in course.

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