Good criminal justice reform news today to brighten this otherwise snowy morning! The New York Times reported that U.S Attorney General Eric Holder has endorsed a proposal by the Sentencing Commission that would change federal guidelines to reduce prison sentences for drugs crimes specifically related to sale of drugs. The average federal sentence for dealing drugs is 62 months – this proposal would shorten that by about one year, to 51 months. This is in addition to Holder’s work to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes. In his testimony before the commission, Holder again delivered a powerful indictment of our broken criminal justice system.
“This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”
If these changes are adopted, the government estimates that the federal prison population would decrease by about 6,550 inmates over the next five years.
The War on Drugs is one of the most costly, most devastating and least effective policies in American history. Holder’s endorsement is just one more indication that law makers nation-wide are waking up to the fact that it is time for a new approach to drug abuse. Unfortunately, this nationally movement towards reform, is in stark contast to Governor LePage’s recent call for a continuation of the same failed drug war policies that have wreaked havoc on our communities and state budgets for over four decades. His proposal – adding 14 new law enforcement positions, 4 new assistant attorney positions dedicated specifically to drug crimes, and four new district court judges that would exclusively hear and decide drug-related cases - is not only completely out of step with growing national consensus on the need for drug law reform, but a terrible use of our government resources.
Take action and tell Governor LePage to end Maine’s failed drug war. Rather than spending our limited resources arresting more people and filing our jails, it’s time to prioritize methods that really work, like prevention and treatment. To take action now to tell our lawmakers to end Maine’s War on Drugs, click here.