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Holder to Announce Major Drug Sentencing Reforms

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  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Attorney General Eric Holder will give a speech today announcing a major overhaul of the way the government tries and sentences certain types of nonviolent drug offenders. Recognizing that our prison population is exploding at an exponential rate during a time of budget cuts, our Justice Department is finally coming around to the fact that the decades old "War on Drugs" is a complete and total failure.

    The Attorney General will be instructing US Attorneys to not file drug charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence against low-level offenders by not including the amount of drugs the individual was caught with. The defendant will still be charged if they sold to a minor or were engaged in violence. They also can not be leaders of organized drug organizations, be connected with a gang or drug-cartel, and can not have any significant criminal history.

    While this is a great first step, it must not be the last. Our prisons are overfilled with nonviolent offenders and most Americans don't appreciate the cost that has on our society as a whole. The average cost to house a prisoner is $47,000 per year. How can anyone say that it's justified to keep these nonviolent people locked up in this time of austerity?

    What does everyone think of the reforms that the Attorney General will be announcing? Should he go further than he is expected to or is he striking the right balance?
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    So many lawyers will pervert this new non-enforcement policy as a get out of jail card, then the crisis will be the over loading of the treatment facilities and then something must be done about then, and so on and so on, the bottom line will be that the ordinary citizen will be the one penalized for the drug problem by increased costs . The Atty. General of the United States swore an oath to uphold all of the Laws of the United sates and not just the ones he feels like enforcing, mandatory sentencing should never be in the criteria for enforcing a particular law, that's just crazy, would he not prosecute a Murder case because he does not believe in the death penalty , of course not, this is all about lowering the incarceration rate among minorities.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    It costs far less to get treatment for an addict than locking them up at nearly $50,000 per year. And what is so terrible about lowering the massive incarceration rate among our nations minorities? While a far greater percentage of whites use and abuse drugs, non-white drug offenders are charged and incarcerated at a rate ten times as high as whites. Please inform me how that is justice.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    Our recidivism is so high because there is no accountability for crimes other than crimes of violence, those so-called minor crimes which accounts for most of the incarceration population is focused primarily on education and self awareness and is a complete failure based on the recidivism numbers, I agree that we spend way too much money on this incarcerated population and we don't receive any benefits in return, we need a complete retooling of this industry, do really need to keep these people on programs that benefits no one but themselves and at our expense, we seemed to worry more about offending their dignity while at the same time ignoring the indignities that they put on their victims, very seldom are victims restored to their previous status, their medical bills are not taken care of, nor are their educational needs supplied. I think maybe first time offenders might need a degree of education and mercy ,maybe even second time offenders, but after that ,they are done ,make them work off their sentence by cleaning up the state parks, interstate roadways, etc, if they violate the State Laws then they pay back the state, when they are eventually released deduct from their wages all costs related to the restoration of the victims, especially those that they personally victimized., in order to reduce crime, you must make crime a difficult price to pay, and as goofy as it may seem, but the adage that goes ,"If you can't do the time, then don't do the crime".
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    I agree with many of the things that you said here. Some of your suggestions are great ideas that I would love to see instituted. However, I do hate that our prison system is called an "industry." It shows the complete lack of focus we have with actually rehabilitating these individuals to become productive citizens once they serve their time and are released back into society. If we don't figure out a way to do that, we will have a perpetual prison class in our country.

    I do believe that the premise of three strikes laws was a genuine attempt to get repeat and violent offenders off the streets for a long time, but what it has morphed into is an abysmal failure that is beyond the pale. There are countless stories of someone getting locked away for 25 years for a very minor drug offense only because it was their "third strike." The idea that we're just going to lock someone up and throw away the key because they were caught with a bag of weed is sheer craziness if you ask me. We have to start reevaluating the way we prosecute individuals and prioritize violent and habitual offenders. I also wouldn't mind if we started using the same gusto to go after the financial institutions that wreak havoc on our economy.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    I think Eric Holder is making a major mistake in not enforcing a law because of the mandatory sentencing issue, by claiming that low level drug dealers should not be subjected to this sentencing procedure because of the supposed non-violent nature of the offense is just wrong, granted that at the point of sale there maybe very limited violence but the efforts to obtain the funds to purchase those drugs from the low level dealer are awash with violence, you make reference to the cost of incarceration at about $47,000 per inmate per year, well the cost of the low level crime to gain the funds for the illegal drugs are well beyond the figure that you proposed that is the cost, every purse snatched, every shoplifted retail items, car break-ins, every burglary requires man hours in investigating the crime, even those victims who have insurance to cover their loss, the loss is off set by higher preminums, plus the court time and all of the procedures that go with the Judicial process, so to me , there is no savings by not incarcerating these criminals.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Decriminalize certain drugs and all of the things that you just referenced will be a moot point.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    The only drug that has been de-criminalized is marihuana (sic), however the drugs that are causing the most problems are of the prescription variety and now with heroion making a come back and Meth still as strong as ever, the push for the mandatory -minimum sentencing guidelines to be eliminated is insane.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    I think this is a step in the right direction. Not a complete fix but it's a start.
    A challenge should be put out for individuals or institutions to come up with ways
    to reduce the costs of running a prison. It should cost far less to warehouse bad
    people.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    I spent well over 10 years in federal prison for cocaine, (title 21, sec (a) ....basically sales. There is no war on drugs. Never has been. There is a war on defendants who will not cooperate. king pins end up being the biggest informants, leaving his minions holding the hot potato. (SENTENCE).

    Under the current sentencing guidelines, court opinions, and statutes...the government doesn't even have to prove drugs to get a life sentence. They only need testimony...Ghost dope. it is called :relevant conduct. Sentencing is a separate issue. You can be sentenced to enhancements at the sole discretion of the AUSA. You can also be sentenced for crimes to which you have been acquitted of,,,,yes,,,ACQUITTED. See U.S. v WATTS.

    Example; A and B are marijuana dealers. They buy marijuana from C....... C sells marijuana and cocaine. A and B establish six month relationship with C. C becomes indicted by the feds. during the investigation C informs on A and B. No drugs. A and B are indicted as well... But they will also be charged with cocaine as well...even though they only sold marijuana under relevant conduct.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    How about not selling drugs at all, that is a viable option and then one would avoid all of the inequities of the drug laws.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    This issue isn't about drugs at all...it's about powers that the government asserts to which they have no constitutional authority. When Ronald Reagan signed the declaration of war on drugs....this wasn't posthumously...he actually signed a declaration of war. The constitution grants him zero authority when he declares war upon his own citizens.

    Acetone is a chemical that is absolutely needed for the process of manufacturing cocaine. Columbia is the number one buyer of acetone. It does not make this chemical nor does Columbia have major industries that can use the amount to which Columbia purchases. Unical provides Columbia with as much acetone as it can afford. Our government remains silent about this issue, and yet, we need identification just to buy certain cold medicines at wal Mart.

    If you or I wanted to purchase American Airlines,,,, it would cost about 4 billon dollars. The industrial prison complex spends 16 billion dollars a year on the war on drugs. DOJ, DEA, FBI, Bureau Of Prisons, Parole, Prison guards,,,,,and every private corporation that provides good and services to the prisons.
    Barbara Bush obtained the bid to provide commissary to every federal prison in the nation. (No Longer does). Bob Barker (a huge republican supporter) for years had the contract for the Bureau of prisons in providing all hygiene products to every single federal prison... Yes, he even has his name on the bars of soap.....Yes, The price is right Bob Barker.

    I spent 10 years, 4 months in federal prison. In USP Victorville we re-built the transmissions for all the Hummers going to Iraq for the US Military. Unicor Industries who paid us (cons) 50 cents an hour, gave the tax payer no break at all for the work. The US tax payer paid four times over what private industry would have charged. You as a tax payer cannot invest in Unicor industries. Why not? PRIVATE>....by bid only. Who do you think obtain the bids?

    I don't mind when people express their opinions on laws, prisons, or any other issue that they they help pay for.....I do ask that you at the least make your decisions and comments based on correct information.....not just your subjective opinion with personal biases.

    I spent a decade in prison for a non-violent crime. I could have cooperated and receive no time at all....We are all accountable for our actions. I elected to accept my fate. my children asked me years later....Why Dad?? Simple answer...you embrace a certain way of life and you honor it. I could not orphan any other child with my testimony or assistance to a system who isn't interested in solving the problem...only to create it,
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    So what you are saying is that you elected to become a criminal and you held to the criminal code of not co-operating with authorities for a reduced sentence and your complaint is what? That you received a tough sentence not commiserate with the crime because it was a non-violent crime? Well. you many be the exception in that you never committed a theft to feed your addiction, but there were plenty of other addicts who in their need for a fix did commit crimes that required some force if not outright violence on citizens who had their rights violated, laws are made for the general public and although some specify exact criminal behavior, they are seldom personal, you knew beforehand what the results of your criminal activity might reap, so although you place a distinction on honoring a criminal code, why not honor the Laws of the society in which you live.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    First of all...there is no such code that exists on the streets. People who engage in criminal activity are very selfish to begin with. It's a dirty game.
    I did not cooperate because of my own beliefs. I make no excuses for my actions. There are no victims here...only volunteers. I was gang member most of my life and CHOSE to do wrong. I sold cocaine for money. I did not respect my community or its laws.

    Now,,,when I say that I was given a long sentence for a non-violent crime...you must first understand the law as it is defined.

    In the United States all of our laws originate from England (common law). In order for a person to be considered a "FELON" and to be "CONVICTED" of a CRIME,,,there must be an actual victim. Your accuser calls the police and identifies you as his assailant.

    Federal courts were created to handle civil suits and monetary crimes against the federal government (tax evasion, bank robbery, counterfeiting, fraud). These are laws that effect "COMMERCE" giving the feds personal and subject matter jurisdiction over the issue and the person.
    Because the US Constitution deals with individual civil rights, the federal courts had no jurisdiction over common law issues.....Until Congress expanded the definition of Commerce ,and the U S Supreme decisions affirming these powers.

    I was not convicted of a crime and declared a Felon. A Judgment and commitment was entered by the court. I knowingly and willfully engaged in an unlawful act...not a crime,,, as defined in Blacks Law Dictionary. The Federal courts are well aware of this legal necessity......

    I only ask that u understand that I received 16 years as a first time drug offender. Child Molesters receive eight years on plea deals. there are no mandatory minimum sentences for child molestation. I can murder you in a post office and will receive a 20 year sentence.
    Yes.... I AGREE WITH YOU
    Society is the victim. From a moral and ethical standpoint......I do see the impact that drugs have in our society.
    No, I do not commit crimes. I am not a gang member today. I spent 9 years in the law library writing appeals, writs, and administrative request for remedy on behalf of other inmates. I'm 30 units short of my BA in liberal Arts.....The Bureau Of Prisons do not offer education. I paid privately to LSU and Ohio State for programs designed for inmates, 260$ per 3 units,,,,buy my own books and receive syllabus by mail.

    I cannot work as a paralegal because of my conviction. I currently drive a big rig (locally in Los Angeles) and have discharged parole....

    Prison saved my life
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    Regarding these alleged changes in how we sentence certain drug offenders is a complete farce by this administration . There are two entities that sentence a defendant. (1) Statute or, (2) United States Sentencing Guidelines......which ever is greater in sentence.

    Only defendants that enter into an agreement for cooperation with the government will receive reduced sentences. Mandatory Minimum sentences were enacted by Congress (statute) and a defendant cannot be sentenced to any sentence lower unless the government file a rule 5K1 or rule 35(b)
    SNITCHING REWARDS.

    Only the AUSA can file for the defendant. Federal Judges have been stripped of all power in the sentencing phase. He is bound by the guidelines and not by any plea agreements. Unless it is deemed binding. if the court accepts the cooperation as valid and substantive,,,, the court may then sentence the defendant under the mandatory minimum sentence as recommended by the AUSA.
    The prison population is exploding because of the budgets that the DEA, FBI, ATF and DOJ receive. You need bodies to justify the allocated funds. When the feds run out of people to arrest, they manufacture criminals...These budgets, if not used up, will be reduced next year.....The new BOOGIE- MAN on the list is MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWERS. Plenty of growers, dealers, and users. Drugs will never be decriminalized in this country.....Too many people are employed because of the war on drugs. What would happen to the DEA, ATF, and FBI if drugs were legal? what about the guards? What would happen to our economy? You know,,,, all those corporations in America that sell tasers night vision, tactical equipment, mag lights, vehicles, tactical clothing etc..etc.. to our wonderful federal agencies. What about the lawyers, law clerks, Judges. Parole, Probation??????????
    Why would they ever kill the CASH COW????? Our government believes that government should expand to create a tax base. The war on drugs is profitable for the U.S.

    If they decriminalized drugs in this country, gave addicts daily fixes for free,,,,,,we would have 16 billion dollars to educate and treat the addicts. We could vastly reduce drug addiction by providing services.