Holder told the American Bar Association that our criminal justice system is too harsh, too costly and gives convicted African Americans makes sentences 20% longer than others for similar crimes. According to Holder the US population has increased by about a third since 1980, the federal prison population has grown eight-fold. “it’s clear—as we come together today that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason”.
All federal inmates added together 219,000 constitute les than one-tenth of 1% of the US population and state prison population are down for the third straight year. It is time, according to Holder “to implement common-sense changes that will foster safer communities form coast to coast”. He called for a National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. “We have assembled a new task force to respond to the extreme levels of violence faced by far too many American Indian and Alaska Native children”.???
He wants it to come up with comprehensive solutions. Holder wants to foster a broad discussion about the state of American criminal justice, but he is especially concerned about drug convictions, singling out mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and a root cause of injustice. He will direct US attorneys to reconsider the charges they bring federal cases in which mandatory minimum sentences are involved, charging “low level nonviolent drug offenders with lesser violations to avoid the mandatory minimum penalties under federal drug laws. The AG spoke as if he were unaware that federal law has no mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of illegal drugs of any amount. The lone exception is crack, and there a special “safety valve” provision lets any such low level, non-violent offenders” off with lighter sentences. Holder is therefore talking about individuals charged with trafficking, not possession of illegal drugs.
The latest US Sentencing commission data reveal that drug offenses are actually not the best way to get a cell at Allenwood or Marion. The past 4 years immigration cases have edged out drug crimes as the largest single type of federal offense ( in 2012-46% sentenced to federal prison were not US citizens. Drug convictions have actually been trending down to less than 1/3. he is troubled that we are “coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts.
The federal justice system seems to be doing quite an efficient job of convicting the guilty. In 2012 97% of all offenders pleaded guilty the highest rate since fiscal year 2002.
In Holders speech he seemed to blend references to federal sentencing and sentencing by the states. The 2012 BJS noted that half of the nearly 1.4 million state prisoners were sentenced for violent offenses (53%) 18% were serving sentences for property crimes and 17% were serving sentences for drug crimes. Newark mayor and senator Booker was all in favor of Holders plan ignoring that Newark’s violent crime has been surging. Unable to face the fact those violent and repeat offenders have long been the vast majority of state prison inmates and the overall inmate population of the US. Drug enforcement is not the center of gravity. Drug offenders are “filling” either the federal or state prisons. Holder spoke as if federal judges do no already have and use discretion in sentencing drug offenders in 2012 18.2% of all drug cases determined guidelines range should be lowered because of the offenders minor or minimal role in the offense. In marijuana cases adjustments to the guideline range occurred 23% of the time, and adjustment only warranted in only 5% of crack cocaine cases and another 6.6% of drug cases. The court determined that the range should be increase because of the offender’s role in the offense as an organizer, leader, manager or supervisor.
The federal sentencing process actually does adjust punishment to fit the offense. Powder cocaine offender gets relief at a higher rte 32.3% through the statutory “safety valve” exception to such sentences. In contrast 7.6% of crack cocaine offenders obtained this relief.
The Sentencing Commission also thought an explanation was in order and it reported: “Overall, crack cocaine offenders continue to have on average a more serious criminal history than any other category of drug offenders”. Too bad the AG misleading rhetoric and shoddy statistic have us off to a rocky start.
Sources—weekly standard, john walters