Attorney General Eric Holder, in what was widely reported by the fawning American press as an "historic announcement," admitted much of what critics of the Department of Justice (DOJ) have long asserted. Holder, in a speech given before the American Bar Association on August 12, 2013, acknowledged that America's rate of incarceration is unprecedented and unjust. Specifically, he said the U.S. prison population was "outsized and unnecessarily large." His comments continued with the observation that "Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason. We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer country."
Holder also acknowledged the pernicious effects of mass incarceration. "Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it." The speech went on to cite "unduly harsh sentences" and referred to mandatory minimums within the current federal sentencing scheme as "draconian."
by google images
Attorney General Eric Holder garnered maximum publicity with a meaningless policy announcement
by google images
Drug advocate Bill Piper was quick to applaud Holder's announcement
"It's a step in the right direction, though about five years too late," says Grover Norquist, the anti-tax president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. "Does it make sense to have a 70-year-old bank robber still in prison? At what point does keeping a guy in prison actually help? You want people in prison because they're a threat to others, not because you're mad at them."
by google images
Grover Norquist met Holder's alleged policy change with measured praise
Holder's comments did not simply identify ills within the federal criminal justice system; specific policy changes were announced. Under the new policy, judges are alleged to have more leeway when sentencing nonviolent drug offenders without ties to large-scale organizations, gangs and drug cartels. If a defendant is charged with selling a controlled substance, they can be charged based on the nature of their crime and not forced to serve a mandatory minimum. There is currently a five year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of as little as 28 grams of crack cocaine.
Despite the predictable laudatory comments from Holder's media myrmidons, a closer examination of exactly what is being proposed reveals the inconsequential nature of the changes. Holder's announcement vests federal prosecutors with a wider range of discretion in the charging of drug offenders. Those "with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels" are now to be free of exposure to mandatory minimum sentencing. Part of the problem with Holder's change is that this is exactly the sort of discretionary power that federal prosecutors have systematically abused. After all, what constitutes a "tie" to a drug organization or gang? These changes will most likely be used by prosecutors as an added inducement to turn those seeking leniency into cooperating witnesses against others and thus fuel the cycle of "snitching" that provides the backbone of the federal criminal justice system. Federal prosecutors can be reliably counted upon to assert their pathological belief that "power not abused is power unused."