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Some drug crimes may be exempt from minimum sentences

While the institution of mandatory minimum sentences may be intended to deter potential offenders and enforce a strict stance on crime, it also fails to acknowledge key factors in individual cases. It’s for that reason, among others, that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is endorsing changes to how some drug crimes are prevented and addressed in Connecticut and states around the country.

Right now, close to 10 million inmates are held in jails across the nation each year. And of the more than 200,000 people currently incarcerated in federal prisons today, around half are serving sentences for drug crimes. Many may consider that to be alarming, given that the prison system is operating well above capacity. That’s why Holder is suggesting an alternative approach to the war on drugs that would supposedly lower prison populations while combatting crime at the community level.

The “Smart on Crime” initiative, as the Attorney General calls it, would encourage local and state governments to direct their efforts on areas with high criminal activity, promoting drug prevention and treatment programs in place of incarceration. He also notes that federal drug charges should be considered with discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Multiple states have already begun implementing similar strategies to great success, according to Holder. He explains that keeping some low-priority, non-violent offenders out of prison and into supervision and treatment programs may reduce the number of repeat offenses.

The Attorney General also contends that entire communities can benefit from eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. He even hints at providing an option to release some non-violent, elderly drug offenders early. By prioritizing drug prevention and treatment, such policies may help to decrease prison populations while better serving the public.  

Source: NPR, “Holder Proposes Changes In Criminal Justice System,” August 12, 2013