U.S. Attorney General Calls for Change to Criminal Justice System
Posted on Aug 16, 2013 9:31am UTC
In a speech delivered to the American Bar Association earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for a significant overhaul to the nation’s criminal justice system. Specifically, he focused on calling for substantial changes to America’s current drug-sentencing policies. As mentioned in one of our previous Houston criminal defense blog, states and jurisdictions throughout the country have been shifting toward a focus on leniency and rehabilitation when prosecuting and sentencing certain drug offenders. Texas, for instance, is one of a few states that have already implemented changes that lessen the severity of drug sentences, particularly for non-violent drug offenders and certain non-violent drug crimes.
Holder proposed a number of changes in his speech, including:
- A scaling back of harsh prison sentences for certain drug offenses;
- Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses;
- Providing judges with more discretion to appropriately sentence drug offenders;
- Establishing diversion and rehabilitation programs, including drug treatment and community service;
- Enabling the release of certain non-violent, elderly prisoners
Change in Texas – as well as Holder’s call for change this past Monday – have been prompted by incredible explosions in jail and prison populations. Harsh sentencing guidelines and severe mandatory minimum sentencing policies for drug offenses began in the 1980s amid America’s infamous “War on Drugs.” Since that time, these policies have proven to be largely ineffective and powerfully inefficient.
Overcrowded prison systems have placed a heavy burden on government resources. According to holder, these harsh sentencing policies have also been a large factor behind high rates of recidivism – the term used to describe a convicted offender’s return to a life of crime and incarceration. As Holder calls it, our drug policies have promoted a “vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration.”
And the facts and data speak volumes about these two points. Federal prison populations – which have been impacted the most significantly – show an alarming 800% increase since 1980. State prisons and local jails throughout the country are also overflowing with inmates. Many state governments have issued harsh cuts and mandatory reductions to prison populations as a result. Additionally, Holder went on to note that while the United States comprises only 5% of the world’s population, America incarcerates close to a quarter of the world’s prisoner.
Large statistics, local data, and numerous personal stories confirm that the harsh drug-sentencing policies in place have failed. Holder states that change must come and with it, more ethical approaches to handling drug offenders and more benefits to our nation’s economy and growth. Programs that focus on rehabilitation, deferred judgments, and drug treatment are gaining strong bipartisan and public support. It will take time, however, for changes to be implemented and for an impact to be seen.
Houston Drug Crime Attorney
Many in the legal profession and many more in the general public feel that Holder’s recent call for change is long overdue. While our nation awaits the effect this policy overhaul will have, no one is naïve enough to believe that our problems are over. For one, drug crime allegations still remain a very serious matter and one that should prompt any accused individual into searching for experienced legal representation. At Billy Skinner & Associates, Houston criminal defense lawyer Billy Skinner has worked with countless clients charged with a wide array of drug offenses. While their stories and situations have all been unique, their need to seasoned and aggressive representation has not.
If you or someone you care about is currently stands accused of a drug crime in Houston or any of the surrounding communities of Texas – including possession, sale, or cultivation charges – take the time to learn more about your case and how our firm can help during a free case evaluation. Contact a Houston criminal attorney from Billy Skinner & Associates today.