It’s called the “Smart on Crime” initiative.
And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s proposed changes in federal sentencing policies — which target long mandatory terms that have flooded the nation’s prisons with low-level drug offenders and diverted crime-fighting dollars that could be better spent — could mark one of the most significant changes in the way the federal criminal justice system handles drug cases since the government declared a war on drugs in the 1980s.
Holder’s plans, which he announced Monday, started with federal prosecutors being instructed to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.
The next step is to work with a bipartisan group in Congress to give judges greater discretion in sentencing.
Holder also wants to divert people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment and community-service programs and expand a prison program to allow for release of some elderly, nonviolent offenders.
The ultimate goal? Reducing the ever-expanding prison population.
It addresses a major concern: Federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity, and the prison population has grown by almost 800 percent since 1980. Almost half the inmates are serving time for drug-related crimes.
And as The Associated Press reported, the impact of “Smart On Crime” could be significant.
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a private group involved in research and policy reform of the criminal justice system, said blacks and Hispanics probably would benefit the most from the changes. He said blacks account for about 30 percent of federal drug convictions each year and Hispanics account for 40 percent.
Of course, Holder’s changes would only apply to the federal level. He said some issues are best handled at the state or local level, and he has directed federal prosecutors across the country to develop locally tailored guidelines for determining when federal charges should be filed and when they should not.
He said 17 states have directed money away from prison construction and toward programs and services such as treatment and supervision that are designed to reduce the problem of repeat offenders.
Currently, about 225,000 state prisoners are incarcerated for drug offenses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. One national survey from 15 years ago by the Sentencing Project found that 58 percent of state drug offenders had no history of violence or high-level drug dealing.
Holder’s proposal was met with widespread praise, ranging from Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, who said the attorney general “is taking crucial steps to tackle our bloated federal mass-incarceration crisis,” to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said he was encouraged by the Obama administration’s view that mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders promote injustice and do not serve public safety.
We like the proposal Holder has set in motion. It makes sense to be tough on crime, but it’s just as important to be smart on crime.
It’s called the “Smart on Crime” initiative.
Coal industry can’t afford to give this administration and EPA more ammunition
Coal already has a bad name in Washington, D.C.
The whole industry got another black eye this week when Alpha Natural Resources Inc., one of the country’s largest coal producers, agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine and invest $200 million to reduce illegal water pollution in five states, including West Virginia.
Being observant, reporting suspicions can make difference for hurting children
If a child is hurting, we wouldn’t hesitate to help.
Or would we?
In a five-year span, 22,830 children were victims of some type of neglect or abuse in West Virginia. That’s an overwhelming number to think about.
Gee makes major impact and earns another term as WVU president
Let’s imagine that a graduate from West Virginia University in the early 1980s, when E. Gordon Gee was president, came back to get an extra degree now and couldn’t believe that E. Gordon Gee is “still” the president of WVU.
Effort to encourage purchase of goods produced in U.S. deserves support
The concept of encouraging the purchase of American-made products is certainly not new.
On the federal level, the Buy American Act was passed in 1933 by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover. It required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases.
‘Stop Meth, Not Meds’ backed by readers
In West Virginia, there is something referred to as “stop-sale technology” that prevents a person from going to more than one pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter medication that contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.
It’s not an issue of stuffy noses that lawmakers were worried about when they created the system.
Even small steps play part in critical mission to reduce childhood obesity
Just two years ago, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, meaning they had excess body weight based on their height.
It’s a troubling statistic, and one that health officials have worked diligently to reverse.
Cutting-edge heart procedure at Mon General is saving lives
“I used to think I wouldn’t live to be 50. Well, I made it to 50 and then some,” Pearl Walls said.
Walls is likely alive today and able to tell her story to the Times West Virginian because of a cutting-edge procedure performed at Monongalia General Hospital — a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), which was only approved for use by the FDA in 2011.
Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ many works, magic words
You know his words.
You know them well.
Funds donated to United Way make community healthier, happier, safer place
A dollar you give to the United Way of Marion County could feed a hungry family.
That dollar could protect a woman and her children from an abuser.
Or the dollar could mean that a family receives credit counseling to lift them out of overwhelming debt.
It could fund Scouting programs, where boys and girls learn lifelong lessons.
Project Launchpad puts critical concept of diversifying state economy into play
The case for diversifying the state of West Virginia’s economy is past the point of debate.
While it is our hope that coal can continue to have a role in our nation’s power-generating matrix, we’ve learned our lesson about over-dependence on a single industry. Particularly being overly dependent on an industry that, in the eyes of federal regulators, is out of fashion.
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