Mandatory minimum sentences may not be something all of our readers have heard of, but for those who’ve been through the criminal justice system on federal drug charges, it probably is. Mandatory minimum sentences are something the federal government implemented back in the 1980s during the so-called “war on drugs.” The intent was to curb judges’ discretion as to prison sentences for convicted drug offenders.
On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new policy that will do away with mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenders. Which ones? In Holder’s words, “low-level, nonviolent” offenders “who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels.” According to Holder, there is a great need for such offenders to receive sentences more appropriate to their behavior.
The change in policy will surely bring overcrowding relief to federal prisons, which are currently operating at almost 40 percent in excess of their capacity. If states to develop such policies as the one Holder has announced, they could presumably experience even greater relief.
As a side note, Holder also mentioned the racial disparities that can be seen in the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, as well as in other areas of the criminal justice system.
In any case, the change in policy will be of interest to anyone facing low-level drug charges. Those in such a situation have need for an effective advocate who understands how to negotiate with prosecutors, how to present an effective case, and how to take advantage of protections offered by the justice system.
Source: Fox News, “Holder calls for scaled-back use of mandatory minimum drug sentences,” August 12, 2013.