“‘Mandatory minimum’ sentences to end for many drug offenders”

August 12, 2013

Los Angeles Times on August 11, 2013 released the following:

“Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. plans to announce a federal policy shift to reduce penalties for low-level, nonviolent offenders and to ease prison overcrowding.

By David G. Savage

SAN FRANCISCO — Federal prosecutors will no longer seek long, “mandatory minimum” sentences for many low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, under a major shift in policy aimed at turning around decades of explosive growth in the federal prison population, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. planned to announce Monday.

“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason,” Holder planned to tell the American Bar Assn. meeting here, according to an advance text of his remarks. “While the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”

Under the new policy, prosecutors would send fewer drug offenders to federal prison for long terms and send more of them to drug treatment and community service. A Justice Department spokesman said officials had no estimate of how many future prosecutions would be affected.

The change responds to a major goal of civil rights groups, which say long prison sentences have disproportionately hurt low-income and minority communities.

In his speech, Holder endorses that point of view, saying that “a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities” and that “many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.”

He also notes that prominent conservatives have embraced the idea of cutting sentences and reducing prison populations.

Conservative groups with leaders including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have called for changing U.S. crime and prison policies, Justice Department officials note. Support from conservatives has come in part because of the enormous bite that prison costs take out of state budgets.

Beginning with the “war on drugs” of the 1980s, many states and the federal government adopted laws that required judges to impose long sentences on anyone caught with certain amounts of illegal drugs, regardless of the circumstances.

More recently, as crime rates have dropped sharply in most major urban areas, public demand for lengthy prison terms has waned, and both liberal and conservative states have changed their laws to incarcerate fewer people.

Advocates of change point to Texas and New York as leaders in the effort to reduce sentences, particularly for lower-level drug crimes. Although California has modified its strict “three strikes” sentencing laws, the state has made fewer changes than many others. The state’s prisons currently are under court order to reduce the number of inmates by nearly 10,000 this year to cope with overcrowding.

Congress has moved more slowly than state legislatures. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have both called for pulling back on the use of mandatory minimum prison terms.

In his speech, Holder plans to cite proposals by Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), two of the Senate’s leading liberals, and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), two tea party favorites, that would give judges more leeway in sentencing drug offenders.

“By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation, while making our expenditures smarter and more productive,” Holder says in his speech.

How big a role mass incarceration has played in cutting crime rates remains a hotly debated topic among criminal justice experts. But there’s no disagreement that mandatory minimum sentences helped cause explosive growth in prison populations. At the federal level, nearly half of the 219,000 inmates are serving time for drug-related crimes.

“While the entire U.S. [prison] population has increased by about a third since 1980, the federal population has grown at an astonishing rate — by almost 800%,” Holder’s speech says. “It’s still growing, despite the fact that federal prisons are operating at nearly 40% above capacity. Even though this country comprises just 5% of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”

Under the new federal policy, which stems from a review Holder ordered this year, U.S. attorneys will no longer bring charges that include lengthy mandatory minimum prison terms in cases of “low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels,” Holder planned to announce.

Those low-level offenders instead “will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct.”

Meting out long sentences to low-level criminals “breeds disrespect for the system” and does not serve public safety, the speech says.

In addition, according to the remarks, the federal Bureau of Prisons will revise its guidelines to allow the early release of more inmates who are elderly or who seek “compassionate release” for medical reasons.

The department is also looking into new ways to identify drug offenders who can be sent to drug treatment or required to do community service as an alternative to prison.

“Clearly, these strategies can work,” Holder’s speech says, citing recent efforts in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii. “They’ve attracted overwhelming, bipartisan support in ‘red states’ as well as ‘blue states.’ And it’s past time for others to take notice.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


A New Strategy to Combat an Evolving Threat

July 26, 2011

The White House on July 25, 2011 released the following:

“Posted by Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Today, I am proud to stand with my colleagues from across the Administration as we unveil a comprehensive, cutting-edge strategy – the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime – that will take our nation’s fight against transnational organized crime to the next level.

Not only will this new strategy allow us to integrate our work more effectively, and to leverage limited resources more efficiently, it also will ensure that our agencies – and our government and law enforcement partners – have the tools and authorities necessary to protect the American people from some of today’s most urgent, and complex, threats.

Of course, the problem of transnational organized crime networks isn’t new. But after a wide-ranging, year-long review – the first study of its kind in more than 15 years – our understanding of what exactly we’re up against has never been clearer or more complete.

Today’s criminal organizations are increasingly sophisticated. They know no borders. They threaten the stability of our financial system, and the promise of a competitive marketplace. And their operations are putting far too many American businesses, government institutions, consumers, and citizens at risk.

For these reasons, in recent years, the Justice Department has strengthened our fight against transnational organized crime – and expanded our successful counter-narcotics work. But this is no longer just a law enforcement issue; it is a problem that demands the attention, and assistance, of a broad spectrum of partners.

With this new strategy, leaders across government and law enforcement are signaling our commitment to combat transnational organized crime by sharing information and expertise as never before, and by developing the legislative solutions we need to address 21st-century threats. This framework will bolster relevant authorities here in the U.S. – while, at the same time, strengthening existing partnerships with our allies around the world. It will also pave the way for broad international cooperation long into the future.

One of the centerpieces of this strategy is a series of legislative proposals designed to enhance the tools that our nation’s Department of Justice – and our law enforcement partners at every level – can bring to bear in the fight against transnational organized crime. These proposals would help to ensure that our statutory landscape is up to date, and that prosecutors and investigators have the capacity to keep pace with the unprecedented threats posed by criminal enterprises that target the United States, including those that operate beyond our borders.

These essential legislative updates would improve our ability to break the financial backbone of criminal organizations by extending the reach of anti-money laundering provisions. They also would enhance our ability to identify and respond to the most common, and often evolving, tactics – and methods of communication – that criminal organizations use to conceal their illicit operations and profits – which, too often, are used to bankroll drug trafficking and even terrorist activity.

As we have learned in the most difficult of ways, the threats that we face are real – and they are constantly evolving. But today, with the release of this Transnational Organized Crime Strategy, we usher in a new era of national vigilance, global engagement, and close collaboration among – and beyond – our respective agencies and departments.

On its own, no single agency, company, community, or country has the perspective necessary to fully assess the nature of the threats we face – or to overcome them. But I have every confidence that this new strategy – and, in particular, the legislative proposals it includes – will strengthen cooperation among relevant authorities, advance our fight against organized crime networks – no matter where they operate – and allow us to build on the record of progress that has been achieved in recent years.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Judiciary Supports Retroactivity of Crack Cocaine Amendments

June 22, 2011
Judge Reggie Walton
Judge Reggie Walton (D. D.C.) testified in June before the U.S. Sentencing Commission

The U.S. Courts – The Third Branch in June 2011 released the following:

““I recommend that the Sentencing Commission . . . give retroactive effect to its recently promulgated amendments lowering sentences for crack offenses,” Judge Reggie Walton (D. D.C.) said at a Commission hearing held this month to consider making recently promulgated crack cocaine amendments retroactive. Walton spoke on behalf of the Judicial Conference Criminal Law Committee.

The amendments would reduce penalties for crack cocaine trafficking and would modify the guidelines provisions related to simple possession of crack cocaine. The sentences of more than 12,000 federal inmates would be affected by a decision to make the amendments retroactive.

Despite significant anticipated budget reductions for the Judiciary and the workload associated with sentence reductions for more than 12,000 inmates, Walton told the Commission that the Criminal Law Committee “continues to believe that an extremely serious administrative problem would have to exist to justify not applying the amendment retroactively. At this time, the Committee does not believe that an extremely serious problem exists.”

Walton also said there continues to be strong support throughout the Judiciary to remedy the injustices related to crack sentencing.

“If the guideline is faulty and has been fixed for future cases, then we also need to undo past errors as well,” he said.

Among the witnesses testifying at the hearing were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Thomas R. Kane, acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, along with panels of practitioners, law enforcement experts, and academics, and a community interest panel.

Holder also called for the retroactive application of the guideline amendment—with a proviso that applies to certain dangerous offenders: “those who have possessed or used weapons in committing their crimes and those who have significant criminal histories should be categorically prohibited from receiving the benefits of retroactivity,” said Holder.

Walton noted that the Criminal Law Committee’s recommendation in favor of retroactivity is limited to two parts of the amendment: Part A, affecting the drug quantity table for offenses involving crack cocaine; and Part C, which deletes a cross reference in the guidelines manual that effectively lowers guideline ranges for certain defendants involving simple possession of crack cocaine. Both of these amendments, “are consistent with the Judicial Conference’s position opposing sentencing differences between crack and powder cocaine and agreeing to support the reduction of those differences,” said Walton.

In October 2010, the USSC promulgated a temporary emergency amendment that implemented the emergency directive in section 8 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. In April 2011, the USSC re-promulgated the temporary amendment as a permanent amendment, which will become effective, absent congressional action, on November 1, 2011. At the same time, the Commission asked for comment on whether it should give the amendment retroactive effect.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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