The next major sentencing reform?

Attorney General Eric Holder. Some rights reserved by Talk Radio News Service

Attorney General Eric Holder. Some rights reserved by Talk Radio News Service

Attorney General Eric Holder looks poised to propose some major changes next week to the criminal justice landscape.

From NPR reporter Carrie Johnson’s story this morning, here’s Holder:

“Well, we can certainly change our enforcement priorities, and so we have some control in that way. How we deploy our agents, what we tell our prosecutors to charge, but I think this would be best done if the executive branch and the legislative branch work together to look at this whole issue and come up with changes that are acceptable to both.”

Legislators around the country on both sides of the aisle have been looking at the issue of mass incarceration and the war on drugs, and proposing new policies that would give judges more discretion and offer alternatives to long prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013; Dick Durbin of Illinois and Mike Lee of Utah created the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013.

The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization, announced their support for the latter a few days ago:

“The Smarter Sentencing Act recognizes what practitioners, advocates, and scholars have long understood:  that ever increasing criminal penalties are not an effective way to keep Americans safe.”

But it’s an ongoing conversation that may get a new burst of energy next week. We’ll be looking out for Holder’s speech.

Listen to Johnson’s entire report here.

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