Justice Department Takes Steps to Reduce Stiff Drug Sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government should reserve the most severe prison sentences on the most violent or high-level drug traffickers.

Posted: 09/20/2013 06:26 PM EDT

The Justice Department said it will reduce the penalties for low-level drug offenses in cases that are pending, Attorney General Eric Holder announced.

“Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case — do not serve public safety when they’re applied indiscriminately,” Holder said, speaking to a forum on criminal justice hosted Thursday by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The attorney general said the federal government should reserve strict and longer prison terms for those convicted of violent or severe drug trafficking. The move comes a month after Holder announced that a number of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders will not be charged with crimes that require severe mandatory minimum sentences.

The new policy will apply to offenses that are nonviolent and did not involve the use of a weapon. It also applies to defendants who were not selling drugs to minors or leaders of any criminal organizations.

In addition, the defendants in these cases would have no close relationships to large gangs or drug trafficking organizations as well as having no significant histories of criminal activities.

The severe, mandatory minimum prison sentences went into effect during the nation’s war on drugs. They placed limitations on the discretion of judges to impose shorter prison terms for offenders.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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