cloudy
Monday May 25th, 2015 7:37AM

Holder endorses proposed drug sentencing changes

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday endorsed a proposal that would result in shorter prison sentences for many nonviolent drug traffickers, saying the change would rein in runaway federal prison costs and create a fairer criminal justice system.

Holder's backing for a U.S. Sentencing Commission proposal to lower the guideline penalties is part of a broader Justice Department effort to lessen punishment for nonviolent drug dealers. He has been pressing to ease long mandatory sentences and has called for greater discretion for judges in sentencing.

"This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate," Holder said in an appearance before the Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that establishes sentencing policies.

The harshest penalties, he said, should be reserved for "dangerous and violent drug traffickers."

Holder directed prosecutors in August to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. He has also said he also wants to divert people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment and community service programs and to expand a prison program to allow the release of some elderly, non-violent offenders.

Holder last year asked the commission to consider reductions in the sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug crimes. The commission responded with a proposal in January that would tie many drug offenses to shorter sentencing ranges.

The effect, the Justice Department says, would be to reduce by 11 months the average sentence of a drug trafficking offender and would trim the federal prison population by roughly 6,550 inmates over the next five years. About 70 percent of drug trafficking offenders would be affected by the change.

The commission was not expected to vote on the proposed change until at least April, but Holder planned to instruct prosecutors in the meantime not to oppose sentencing recommendations in line with the newly proposed ranges.

A national association of prosecutors is opposing the proposal, arguing that the majority of federal prisoners "have been very bad actors for a long time."

"Rewarding convicted felons with lighter sentences because America can't balance its budget doesn't seem fair to both victims of crime and the millions of families in America victimized every year by the scourge of drugs in America's communities," Raymond Morrogh, the top prosecutor in Fairfax County, Va., and the director-at-large of the National District Attorneys Association, said in prepared remarks.

Thursday was Holder's second appearance before the Sentencing Commission.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 4 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 4 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 2 days ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 1 month ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )