Attorney General Proposes Solution to End War on Drugs
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 08/13/2013 in Marijuana Politics
The Obama administration unveiled plans on Monday to fix what it considers to be an ineffective and unsustainable longstanding unjust treatment of many nonviolent drug offenders.They are hoping to bypass rigid mandatory prison terms while minimizing America’s massive prison population and simultaneously saving billions of dollars.
Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement official, revealed his proposals in a speech at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association. “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”
In an attempt to propose a fundamental shift in America’s long lived war on drugs, Holder announced that he’s ordered federal prosecutors to stop seeking maximum punishments for specific nonviolent, low-level drug offenders.
Hoping to reduce the clogging of prisons with nonviolent inmates, the Obama administration has been attempting a pragmatic approach to transform the federal justice system. Not to mention, Holder added, the stark racial disparities in American prisons. He mentioned that according to reports, black male criminal offenders are given sentences nearly 20 percent lengthier than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. “This isn’t just unacceptable,” he said, “it is shameful.”
And more than shameful, the United States currently takes the lead in the world percentage of its population behind bars, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies in London. The mandatory minimum sentences for drug related offenses are majorly responsible for this.
Criminal lawyers said that by having prosecutors omit the amount of drugs involved in a case from official charging documents, prosecutors could ensure that nonviolent defendants having never gained significant criminal history would not get long sentences.
In his speech, Holder mentioned significantly scaling back drug penalties for low-level drug offenders with zero ties to gangs, international traffickers or cartels. He noted that, “by reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation.” He proposed more community service programs and treatment programs for drug-related incarceration.
The solution involves a newfound emphasis on prosecutorial discretion with criminal cases. Whereas law enforcers were once concerned with regulating every federal drug law, they are now encouraged to allow state or local prosecutors to find suitable charges against nonviolent drug offenders. Holder urges prosecutors to use their discretion in charging drug offenders, hoping to avoid harsh mandated sentencing schemes which have already worked to send a quarter of federal inmates to prisons. He has instructed federal prosecutors nationally to develop, “specific locally tailored guidelines” determining whether or not drug cases should be subject to federal charges. He had also noted that within recent years, 17 states had shifted government funding away from prison construction and directed it towards programs like drug treatment aimed at reducing recidivism rates.
In an interview, one ex-convict, Tony Papa, who had served 12 years in prison for a first time nonviolent drug offense agreed that it is past time addiction is treated as a medical problem and not a crime. With federal prisons already 40% over capacity, holder said the nation can no longer incarcerate its way to safety. Of our nation’s nonviolent inmates, Holder said, “We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and rehabilitate – but not to warehouse and forget.”