Drug Policy

Eric Holder's Second Thoughts on Mandatory Minimums

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The Drug War Chronicle notes that Eric Holder made some semi-encouraging remarks about sentencing reform at a press conference in March 1999, when he was deputy attorney general:

I do not think that we should ever foreclose the possibility that we take a look at how the laws that we have passed are working. I tend to think that mandatory minimum sentences that deal with people who commit violent crimes are almost always good things. I think the concerns are generally raised about mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. And I think there are some questions that we ought to ask.

I do not go into it with a presumption that they're necessarily bad, but we ought to look at the statistics and see, are we putting in prison, are we using our limited prison space for the kind of people that we want to have there? Are the sentences commensurate with the kind of conduct that puts people in jail for these mandatory minimum sentences?

Those are the kinds of questions I think that we ought to ask. And as thinking legislators on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative, I would hope that we would ask those questions and then go into it with an open mind.

This is pretty weak stuff, especially 13 years after Congress approved draconian new mandatory minimum sentences, by which time their injustice and inefficiency were abundantly clear, even to lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key criminologists such as John DiIulio. And these days, even Joe Biden, creator of the "drug czar" position and one of the most gung-ho drug warriors in the Democratic Party, concedes the need to trim sentences. As the Chronicle notes, our vice president–elect has signed on to legislation that would eliminate the absurd disparity between crack and cocaine powder sentences, a cause President-elect Obama also supports. That would be a significant reform, albeit two decades late. Holder, despite his support for mandatory minimums in D.C. when he was a U.S. attorney, seems to be on a nearby page when it comes to reducing the sentences for people who don't belong in prison at all. Yay, I guess.

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  1. what’s that i see?

    is it a glimmer of hope?

    nevermind, just some glitter caught in my eye.

  2. Reason editors: Desperately trying to find a pony in all the horsehit. A Holder appointment will be a bad thing for libertarians. There is no upside to it. Any possible moves towards liberalization of drug policy will only be counterbalanced by the Democrats compulsive need to control the lives of others.

    Just admit it, Obama ain’t the libertarian messiah. He’ll end up being better than Bush, but even a cold congealed haggis in the Oval Office would be better than Bush.

  3. So, from the guy WHO ISN’T EVEN PRESIDENT YET…

    A glimmer of hope?
    A spark of evil?
    A reason to write punny ledes?

    Seriously, WTF. I get that the election is just over and you’re still detoxing, but seriously. The guy hasn’t actually even done anything yet.

    He can’t.

    HE’S NOT YET THE PRESIDENT.

  4. He’ll end up being better than Bush

    Wanna bet on that?

    Can Obama be worse for liberty than Bush?

    Yes He Can!

  5. His justice department will be better than Bush. That is my prediction. I know almost anything would be better than Bush, but still.

    I don’t know if it will be better than Reno.

  6. SIV–

    Gonzales and Ashcroft is a low bar to clear.

  7. BDB,

    Reno was every bit as bad as Gonzales & Ashcroft. Waco, Ruby Ridge,& Elian Gonzalez need I go on.

  8. Travis–

    Re-introducing torture trumps even that.

  9. Anyway, who WAS the last halfway decent Attorney General?

  10. “Anyway, who WAS the last halfway decent Attorney General?”

    Well you got me there.

  11. A glimmer of hope? (shrugs) Naaaaaaaaaaaah.

  12. Lets see–

    It couldn’t have been Bush’s or Reagan’s, since they amped up the drug war.

    It wasn’t Nixon’s, for obvious reasons. Wasn’t Johnson or Kennedy’s, again, for obvious reasons.

    Eisehower’s AG? Was he any good?

  13. I wonder how we’d feel if they eliminated the disparity of crack & powder sentences by increasing powder sentences?

  14. If Holder can at least slow down the shift into despotism, I say we declare him a saint.

  15. Uh oh, don’t bring up Elian Gonzales. joe will go “storm-trooper supporter” on your ass.

  16. “I wonder how we’d feel if they eliminated the disparity of crack & powder sentences by increasing powder sentences?”

    I was thinking the same thing & I wouldn’t be suprised if that’s what ends up happening.

  17. Travis, Paul,

    Shit! Now you guys made me depressed.

  18. I wonder how we’d feel if they eliminated the disparity of crack & powder sentences by increasing powder sentences?

    Don’t say that. Don’t even fucking think it.

  19. Eisenhower’s AG? Was he any good?

    Herbert Brownell, Jr.?

    From Wiki:

    He was instrumental in convincing General Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for President of the United States, and worked in Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign. Eisenhower appointed him as Attorney General on January 21, 1953 and he served until November 8, 1957. Early in his term, he was involved in several landmark civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Although it was weakened by the United States Senate, he drafted the legislative proposal that ultimately became the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was the first civil rights law enacted in over 80 years. Because of his strong stance in favor of civil rights, Brownell became very unpopular in the South. Eisenhower wished to nominate Brownell to the Supreme Court when vacancies occurred in 1957 and 1958, but felt he could not because segregationists in the Senate would fight and defeat the nomination.

    From what little I have to go on, I like him. He seemed a decent sort.

  20. So, I guess he was the last non-asshole AG. That is depressing.

  21. Damn Epi. You may have to quit snorting coke if they increase powder sentences. With that sweet Dennis like body you claim to have, not even you could go to prison and think everythings going to be okay. LoL!

  22. Ruby Ridge was Bush I, I recall.

    Not that it matters, particularly.

  23. “I do not think that we should ever foreclose the possibility that we take a look at how the laws that we have passed are working.”

    What a wonderfully circuitous way of stating the bleeding-fucking obvious. The first politician to actually do it gets a gold star.

  24. With that sweet Dennis like body you claim to have, not even you could go to prison and think everythings going to be okay

    No prison, Naga. Blaze of glory. Of course there’s gonna be an explosion. You don’t think I’m gonna explode?

    And FYI, I am in better shape than Dennis.

  25. BDB,

    I don’t think the Bush administration re-introduced torture. It has apparently always been practiced in or outside the U.S. by some element of American government (local, state, or federal).

  26. No prison, Naga. Blaze of glory.

    Obviously giving up blow is just not an option when you’re going for that lean, Jesus-on-the-cross look.

  27. Obviously giving up blow is just not an option when you’re going for that lean, Jesus-on-the-cross look.

    Obviously. Suppressing my appetite with decongestants and meth just doesn’t work the same.

  28. “Ruby Ridge was Bush I”

    Thanks for correcting me on that.

  29. Ah, Dagny . . . how I love thee.

    Epi is just putting on airs. He’s gonna be sobbing in the courtroom. Gonna sob on the bus to prison. Make friends with another sobbing guy on the bus, and as soon as they step off the bus together . . . BAM! Epi is gonna deck him and choke him to death. Gotta be a total bad ass if your gonna make it through prison unraped.

  30. Actually, Carter’s first AG, Griffin Bell, was pretty good, too, it seems.

    From wikipedia
    ? by the time he left office, Bell had allayed the concerns and won the praise of most of the critics in the United States Senate and the media. He was credited with bringing needed independence and professionalism to the Department of Justice. Unprecedented and not duplicated since, Bell posted publicly every day his third party contacts, including meetings and calls with the White House, members of Congress, or other non-Justice Department persons to rebuild confidence in the Department of Justice.

    Bell led the effort to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. The Carter administration, advised by Bell, greatly increased the number of women and minorities serving on the federal bench. Bell recruited an Eighth Circuit judge, Wade McCree, an African American, to serve as Solicitor General of the United States, and Drew R. Days III, an African American lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund he had admired in oral arguments before him, to head the Civil Rights Division? Bell also led efforts to professionalize the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Watergate and recruited another federal appellate judge to recommend to the President as Director, Judge William Webster of the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. After Bell resigned as Attorney General in August 1979, President Carter thereafter appointed him as Special Ambassador to the Helsinki Convention.

  31. Epi is gonna deck him and choke him to death. Gotta be a total bad ass if your gonna make it through prison unraped.

    “Chip here does the killin’. I don’t like to kill. I’m the brains, eh? Like, we got over five billion dollars in our hideout, only some of the money’s marked, eh, so we’re not spendin’ it. We’s just waitin’.”

    “Youse guys like a smoke?”

    “No, eh? We want our lungs to be pink when they fry us. Hey, we told ’em we didn’t want a lawyer. Chip here probably just kill him anyway. Lawyers are for sucks.”

  32. “Epi is just putting on airs. He’s gonna be sobbing in the courtroom. Gonna sob on the bus to prison. Make friends with another sobbing guy on the bus, and as soon as they step off the bus together . . . BAM! Epi is gonna deck him and choke him to death. Gotta be a total bad ass if your gonna make it through prison unraped.”

    This reminds me of the documentary Gladiator Days. Epi’s the new Troy Kell.

  33. Travis,

    Was he the one who spouting out white power bullshit right after he killed a guy?

    Epi,

    What. The. Fuck. Bob and Doug? No wonder you 80’s kids are fucked up. Do you still wear those bizarre hair styles with make up and gay outfits?

  34. OK, just own up fellas. Who here had Parachute Pants?

  35. Whoa! Flashback to the days of . . . M . . . C . . . Hammer! Can’t touch this!

  36. Epi’s the new Troy Kell.

    Hey! I’m more of a Derek Vinyard.

    No wonder you 80’s kids are fucked up. Do you still wear those bizarre hair styles with make up and gay outfits?

    What do you think?

  37. Naga Shadow,

    Yeah that guy.

  38. I think he’s dead. I remember hearing something on the line of trying to commit suicide by OD’ing on heroin. Blaze of Glory Epi style.

  39. Did I go to far with that last one, Epi? Or to close to the truth for comfort?

  40. Did I go to far with that last one, Epi? Or to close to the truth for comfort?

    I just burned my parachute pants so that you will never know.

  41. Wasn’t that in an episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

  42. McCain would’ve been worse.

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