Justice Department Announces Sweeping Changes to Federal Sentencing
NADCP Applauds ‘Smart on Crime’ Approach; Calls for Further Expansion of Federal Drug Courts
Yesterday’s announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder sent a powerful message that our ongoing fight for smart, evidence-based justice is transforming this nation. In a speech before the annual conference of the American Bar Association, Attorney General Holder outlined a plan aimed at reducing the U.S. prison population through several measures including easing federal mandatory minimums for some drug offenders. The unparalleled success of Drug Courts at treating seriously addicted offenders, and the expansion of the Drug Court model to the federal court, helped pave the way for this historic initiative.
The new Justice Department plan would implement the following:
- Direct US Attorneys "to develop specific, locally-tailored guidelines -- consistent with our national priorities -- for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not."
- Mandate a change of the 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;" and
- Expand the compassionate release program by revising eligibility criteria to include "elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences."
A report released in conjunction with Holder’s announcement cites Drug Courts as a critical alternative to incarceration. New NADCP Board Chair and U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett applauded the speech. "I am encouraged by yesterday’s announcement by the Attorney General,” he said. “The initiatives he outlined open the door for federal courts to further implement evidence based practices and other alternatives, such as Drug Courts. As we have demonstrated in Mississippi, the Drug Court model can be applied in the federal system to ensure that federally charged offenders have the same opportunity to receive treatment and avoid incarceration." Judge Starrett presides over one of the first federal Drug /Reentry Courts in the nation. Prior to being appointed to the federal bench in 2005, Judge Starrett founded the first felony Drug Court in Mississippi. "As federal prosecutors across the country receive new guidelines from the Attorney General, we must ensure that they have programs like this in place to appropriately divert offenders who would be best served by treatment."
Click here to read NADCP’s full press release download the accompanying Smart on Crime report.