Eric Holder is set to announce on Monday that the Department of Justice is ready to reform what he calls, "draconian mandatory minimum sentences" in our justice system.
These sentences were born during the War on Drugs and were intended to create extreme consequences for drug use or distribution that users or dealers would be scared straight. It didn't work at all, resulting in a huge spike in prison population that had lasting, devastating impacts on families and communities, especially in lower-class areas where police target most of these crimes.
"Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities," Holder will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by HuffPo. "However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it."
The DOJ's plan to improve and reduce pressure on the system will start with the potential release of elderly inmates without violent history and turning criminal justice programs over to states and cities rather than the feds.
"Some issues are best handled at the state or local level," Holder will say. "And that’s why I have directed the United States Attorney community to develop specific, locally-tailored guidelines – consistent with our national priorities – for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not."
This plan is long overdue and hits at the heart of the big prison industry that thrives under mandatory minimum sentence laws. This is the first step in reducing the United States' status as the world's Incarceration Nation and take positive steps towards a more flexible and intelligent judicial system.