Drug sentencing reform will reduce jail time for low-level offenses. The overhaul will include the option of diversion programs and eliminate some mandatory minimum sentencing.
The goal is to reduce prison overcrowding and increase rehabilitation. Mandatory minimum sentencing began in the 1980s with the US government’s war on drugs.
As reported by CBS News, nearly half of all prison inmates were convicted of drug-related crimes. Once convicted, the inmates are rarely treated for their addictions. The new guidelines, presented by Attorney General Eric Holder, will address those issues.
Holder will present the changes to the American Bar Association in San Francisco today. He hopes the overhaul will underline the fact that “incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate — not merely to convict, warehouse and forget.”
The drug sentencing reform will address the individual, not the crime. Individuals with no ties to organized crime or violent crime will be considered for community service and other types of diversion.
Lifting minimum sentencing guidelines will give individual judges more discretion. With the current system, judges must impose the minimum sentence. The overhaul will give judges the power to impose alternative sentences, reducing jail time.
As reported by Fox New, over 200,000 people are currently housed in US federal prisons. They are “operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity.” At the state, county, and city levels, up to 10 million inmates are processed per year.
Holder explains that the current sentencing guidelines are destroying the poorest communities in the US:
“we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate … Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities … our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem.”
Holder is not arguing against sentencing for serious and violent crime. The overhaul will only address non-violent offenders. The changes will allow all agencies to concentrate their efforts on organized and violent crime.
The drug sentencing reform will address an issue that has plagued the US for decades. Overcrowded prisons are not addressing the underlying issue. Harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes have not shown any statistical reduction in crime.
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