U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed a proposal that would result in shorter prison sentences for many nonviolent drug offenses.
Holder says the change would rein in runaway federal prison cost and create a fairer criminal justice system.
“This focused reliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable — it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate,” Holder said in an appearance before the Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that establishes sentencing policies.
In a country where nearly half of all federal inmates are serving time for drug crimes, the harshest penalties should be reserved for violent drug defendants and criminals with long rap sheets, Holder said.
Holder’s backing of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s proposal to lower the guideline penalties is part of the Justice Department’s effort to lessen punishment for nonviolent drug dealers.
He has been pushing for a change to the long mandatory sentences enforced in many states, and has called for greater discretion for judges in sentencing.
The commission is not expected to vote on the proposed change until at least April.
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