WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for major changes to the nation’s criminal justice system that would scale back the use of harsh prison sentences for certain drug-related crimes, divert people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment and community service programs and expand a prison program to allow for release of some elderly, non-violent offenders.

In remarks prepared for delivery Monday to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Holder said he is mandating a change to Justice Department policy so that low-level, non-violent drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels won’t be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences.

Mandatory minimum prison sentences — a product of the government’s war on drugs in the 1980s — limit the discretion of judges to impose shorter prison sentences.

Under the altered policy, the attorney general said defendants will instead be charged with offenses for which accompanying sentences “are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.”

Federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity and hold more than 219,000 inmates — with almost half of them serving time for drug-related crimes and many of them with substance use disorders. In addition, 9 million to 10 million prisoners go through local jails each year. Holder praised state and local law enforcement officials for already instituting some of the types of changes Holder says must be made at the federal level.

Aggressive enforcement of federal criminal laws is necessary, but “we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation,” Holder said. “Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.”

“We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate — not merely to convict, warehouse and forget,” said the attorney general.

Holder said mandatory minimum sentences “breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive.”

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have introduced legislation aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimums to certain drug offenders.

Holder said new approaches — which he is calling the “Smart On Crime” initiative — are the result of a Justice Department review he launched early this year.

The attorney general said some issues are best handled at the state or local level and said he has directed federal prosecutors across the country to develop locally tailored guidelines for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.

“By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime ‘hot spots,’ and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency and fairness — we can become both smarter and tougher on crime,” Holder said.

The attorney general said 17 states have directed money away from prison construction and toward programs and services such as treatment and supervision that are designed to reduce the problem of repeat offenders.

In Kentucky, legislation has reserved prison beds for the most serious offenders and refocused resources on community supervision. The state, Holder said, is projected to reduce its prison population by more than 3,000 over the next 10 years, saving more than $400 million.

He also cited investments in drug treatment in Texas for non-violent offenders and changes to parole policies which he said brought about a reduction in the prison population of more than 5,000 inmates last year. He said similar efforts helped Arkansas reduce its prison population by more than 1,400. He also pointed to Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii as states that have improved public safety while preserving limited resources.

Holder also said the department is expanding a policy for considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances, and who pose no threat to the public. He said the expansion will include elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences.

Via bigstory.ap.org

Dog and Beth Chapman on Public Safety Bill HB 2514

Rep. Pine talks with Dog and Beth Chapman, stars of the A&E reality show Dog The Bounty Hunter about their concerns on public safety bill HB 2514.

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Capitol computer system links aren’t working, ACLU suggests private prisons improperly extend sentences to increase profits

Comment on ilind.net

Check out SB 2534 which addresses delayed release on bail for those persons held at places like OCCC and MCCC due to our courts being closed and no agency willing to accept bail. These cumulative days of detention for those persons already determined bailable and who want to bail out cost money too. SB 2534 attempts to fix this but take note of the Corrections Division testimony against SB 2534 and against any relief or speeding up of bail release. Read about how persons at OCCC cannot even pay their own bail without the third party going to the court house and back. And if you go to Honolulu district court the fiscal cashier hands the person paying the bail a paper with phone numbers on it requiring them to phone OCCC to obtain the needed police report numbers as a condition of paying the fiscal officer the bail money. Anyone ever tried phoning an ACO at OCCC for information lately while standing in the courthouse hallway? I have. Why the court would require a person paying bail to do more than pay the money is perplexing and SB 2534 address this issue. After all the correction division holds persons in custody by order of the court and not vice-versa. Yet, Honolulu district court wants persons paying cash bail to tell them why they are paying bail instead of the court telling the person paying bail how much money they need to pay for a bail release at OCCC. In other words, zero coordination between Honolulu district court and OCCC. Any person wanting to bail a person out of OCCC on a minor traffic ticket from Eva Court, Kaneohe Court or Honolulu District Court will like SB 2534 because it tells OCCC to provide a means for inmates that have the money to pay their own bail. Hopefully OCCC will tell the pretrial defendant how much money they need to pay to bail out and won’t make them call the court….