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."
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Attorney General Eric Holder garnered maximum publicity with a meaningless policy announcement
Holder's comments were met with near universal praise from across the political spectrum. "It is potentially a very significant shift in policy," said Bill Piper, the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a progressive group advocating the legalization marijuana. "And one that would save taxpayers money and increase public safety."
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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."