Last week, we mentioned that the federal government has stepped away from cracking down on low-level drug offenders if their marijuana possession has been legalized by the state where they are currently located. This is not the only significant shift in drug policy that the federal government has embraced over the past few weeks.
The U.S. Attorney General also recently announced that the federal government is changing its approach to low-level, non-violent drug offenses generally. In a speech to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, Eric Holder outlined the new approach that federal prosecutors are going to be taking in regards to this kind of crime.
Rather than continue their traditional tactics of seeking to send low-level drug offenders to jail or prison for significant periods of time, federal prosecutors will no longer pursue this kind of sentencing as a matter of course. The federal government has finally taken executive notice of the fact that severe mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level and non-violent criminal offenders costs taxpayers and society more than it allegedly saves them.
Lengthy incarceration sentences for low-level and non-violent offenders have not been proven to reduce recidivism rates. In addition, alternative methods of accountability and treatment cost far less than incarceration and often benefit everyone. When low-level offenders are given access to drug treatment and are not kept in prison for lengthy periods of time, families benefit, the offender is given another chance to make positive choices and the taxpayers save money. This policy shift is a welcome change.
Source: ABA Journal, “Sweeping reversal of the War on Drugs announced by Atty General Holder,” Terry Carter, Aug. 12, 2013