Obama administration moves to stop imposing mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses

Despite comparable usage rates, black Americans are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession

United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday a new set of Justice Department policies meant to stop the enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences in order to reduce prison overcrowding. He said the aim was to reduce government spending and improve fairness in the justice system.

A video of Holder’s speech is available here.

Holder said that America has 5% of the world’s population but runs 25% of its prisons.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Holder also introduced a related set of Justice Department policies that would leave more crimes to state courts to handle, increase the use of drug-treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration, and expand a program of “compassionate release” for “elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences.”

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech said. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

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