This week Attorney General Eric Holder criticized "draconian" mandatory minimum sentences and outlined a plan to reduce the time served by low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says it is not clear exactly who will be eligible for such prosecutorial mercy, or to what extent it will go beyond the existing "safety valve" for minor drug offenders. The real significance of Holder's initiative, Sullum suggests, lies in its ratification and amplification of bipartisan regret about the tough-on-crime binge of the 1980s, which expanded the U.S. prison population nearly nine-fold and made us the world leader in per capita incarceration.
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