The Slatest

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Wants to Shorten Jail Time for Drug Offenders

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capotil Hill, on January 29, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Average jail stays for drug convicts could be on their way down. Earlier this year a federal sentencing commission proposed that prison times for low-level drug offenders be reduced. Today in Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder threw his support behind the plan, which would impact about 70 percent of drug offenders in the criminal justice system and reduce average sentences by about a year. Here’s the Washington Post with the details:

Under current mandatory minimum guidelines, a drug offender convicted of possessing 500 grams of cocaine or 28 grams of crack would face a term of 63 to 78 months. Holder is proposing that the time in such a case be reduced to 51 to 63 months. …

Holder’s latest policy change would reduce the Bureau of Prison population by 6,550 people within five years, according to the Justice Department. Of the more than 216,000 federal inmates, nearly half are serving time for drug-related crimes.

Holder, who said that drug incarcerations have drifted away from simply maintaining public safety, also argued for the proposal – in somewhat equal measure – on economic terms.

“State and federal governments spent a combined $80 billion on incarceration during 2010 alone,” he said. “And as you know, of the more than 216,000 current federal inmates, nearly half are serving time for drug-related crimes.”