Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured) has asked for a change in how federal sentencing guidelines are used to handle the cases of drug trafficking offenders. Under a new proposal, only the most-serious offenders would receive the tougher penalties under the law thus reducing sentences.
Holder delivered testimony before the U.S. Sentencing Commission regarding changes to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Thursday. In his testimony, Holder detailed the necessity of changing how drug sentences are handed out in a bid to ease the increasing burden on the penal system.
“This straightforward adjustment to sentencing ranges – while measured in scope – would nonetheless send a strong message about the fairness of our criminal justice system,” Holder testified. “And it would help to rein in federal prison spending while focusing limited resources on the most-serious threats to public safety.”
Back in January, the Sentencing Commission proposal was first revealed. In the plan, drug offense charges would be lowered by two levels according to the base offense and amount of drugs found.
If the plan were accepted, the Justice Department says that 70 percent of all drug trafficking offenders would benefit from the change. Overall, the change could reduce prison time by 11 months for some. Another measurable number projected by the Commission says that the Bureau of Prisons population would drop by 6,550 prisoners at the end of five years.
This testimony is the latest step by Holder’s office and its “Smart On Crime” initiative aimed at focusing stricter mandatory-minimum sentences on only high-level or violent drug offenders.
The Commission will vote on the proposal next month. In the meantime, Holder is asking that prosecutors accept a defendant’s choice to have their cases heard under the proposed guidelines.
Read Attorney General Holder’s entire testimony in full here.