Criminal Justice

Attorney general will call for lower sentences for most federal drug offenders

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to endorse a proposal that would lower guidelines sentences for 70 percent of the nation’s drug offenders in the federal courts.

Holder will testify today before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, report the Washington Post and the New York Times. The proposed amendment by the commission would lower sentences by an average of about a year.

The commission is likely to vote on the proposal in April. In the meantime, Holder will issue a memo telling prosecutors not to seek longer sentences for crimes that would get shorter sentences under the proposal.

The sentencing change would reduce federal prison population by 6,550 people within five years, the stories say, citing Justice Department figures. Holder’s prepared comments say the lower sentences will result in billions of dollars in cost savings.

The Justice Department is stressing high sentences for violent drug traffickers and lighter sentences for lower-level offenders. Holder has previously said low-level nonviolent drug offenders will not automatically be charged with offenses calling for severe mandatory minimum sentences, the Post says.

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