Attorney General Eric Holder and his United States Department of Justice have recently come up with the bright idea to leave the states alone to determine whether recreational drugs like marijuana should be legalized; whether federal drug law offenders should face mandatory minimum prison sentences; and whether it’s still such a good idea to keep filling up federal prisons to the brim with non-violent drug offenders.
Who would’ve thought?
Is it possible that the gargantuan powers that be – the Authority! – is finally starting to listen to us libertarians?
After all these years of mindless, wasteful and ineffective conflict is it possible that the authoritarian War on Drugs pendulum has swung too far and is finally poised to change direction on a course toward moderation and reason?
Well, probably not. People like Eric Holder are not going to listen to libertarians. The War on Drugs is going to continue on the path of stupid but maybe, just maybe, not quite as stupid as in the several decades past.
Holder told an audience of the American Bar Association in San Francisco that he is altering his policy on charging some drug offenders. Those defendants with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels and no history of violence won't be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimums.
Offenders 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."
So the Attorney General of the United States is tacitly admitting that, for all this time, petty recreational drug offenders in America have been given mandatory, draconian and excessive prison sentences for totally non-violent conduct. It’s like: “Oops, we made a big mistake; our bad; so sad.”
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." Holder only now acknowledges.
Who would’ve thought?
The War on Drugs is the reason why federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity because half of the prisoners are there for drug related “crimes,” most of them by far nonviolent, and 9 million to 10 million prisoners are stuffed into local jails each year.
"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."
"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, but he’s not saying he’s sorry for all the innocent lives ruined in the War on Drugs.
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.
Maybe the time has come to scuttle the entire War on Drugs and bring back the concept of personal liberty in the United States of America.
Gee, who would’ve thought?