Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holder Mandatory Minimum Memo

Interested readers can view the complete text of Attorney General Eric Holder's recent memo to U.S. Attorneys re mandatory minimum sentences. To view memo (as .pdf) click here.

Among other things, the document notes:

Current policy requires prosecutors to conduct an individualized assessment of the extent to which charges fit the specific circumstances of the case, are consistent with the purpose of the federal criminal code, and maximize the impact of federal resources on crime ... Now that our charging decisions also affect when a defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, prosecutors must evaluate these factors in an equally thoughtful and reasoned manner. 

It is with full consideration of these factors that we now refine our charging policy regarding mandatory minimums for certain nonviolent, low-level drug offenders. We must ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers. In some cases, mandatory minimum and recidivist enhancement statutes have resulted in unduly harsh sentences and perceived or actual disparities that do not reflect our Principles of Federal Prosecution. 

Long sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Moreover, rising prison costs have resulted in reduced spending on criminal justice initiatives, including spending on law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and prevention and intervention programs. These reductions in public safety spending require us to make our public safety expenditures smarter and more productive.

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