JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled a prison reform package Monday that would change the way federal drug suspects are charged and prosecuted.
Holder told members of the American Bar Association in San Francisco that nonviolent drug offenders should not receive mandatory-minimum prison sentences, which were put in place in the 1980s.
Former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis Fallgater said Holder's idea is long overdue and it essentially could rewrite the federal sentencing standards for drug-related crimes, giving the judges the discretion to decide the punishment.
"I would hope the U.S. attorney will make the change necessary to bring about an even platform across our country," said Don Snow, who recently got out of prison on felony charges.
He said he knows what its like to be given a second chance, adding that Holder's call for criminal justice reform is something that would benefit nonviolent offenders and their families.
"The dysfunctional family is rampid, especially raising a children, you need a father and mother," Snow said.
"By targeting the most serious offenses and prosecuting the most dangerous criminals," Holder said.
Holder said drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels should no longer be charged with mandatory sentences.
"We in the federal government can become smarter and tougher on crime," he said.
"I think it's an excellent idea," Fallgater said.
He said sentencing reform could save the country millions of dollars, and the guidelines put in place to combat the crack cocaine explosion in the '80s and '90s tied the hands of the judge.
"This will give the judge the discretion, which was essentially taken away from them, to determine what's a fair sentence rather than a mandatory-minimum imposed on them when there is no violence involved and their family depending on them," Fallgater said.
Holder is preparing a slate of local guidelines to determine if cases should be subject to federal charges. He said the minimum-mandatory sentencing standards created a vicious cycle that weakened American families.
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