Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured) and the Justice Department has been firm on reducing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offenders as part of his “Smart On Crime” initiative unveiled last August. On Friday in a South Carolina federal drug court, Holder delivered remarks at a graduation ceremony for individuals who entered a voluntary substance abuse program.
Holder appeared at the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in the city of Charleston for the BRIDGE Reentry Drug Court graduation ceremony this morning. The BRIDGE program is tailored for those on pre-trial or post-conviction release who are struggling with addiction. This ties directly with the Attorney General’s “Smart On Crime” program that seeks to value treatment and prevention over incarceration as a means to rehabilitate drug offenders.
From Holder’s speech:
Since its inception, the BRIDGE pilot program has shown tremendous promise in helping to reduce recidivism by empowering determined people like you to overcome addiction, to fight through adversity, and to contribute to their communities. None of this would be possible without the dedication of the judges of this Court; the prosecutors and staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, including your outstanding U.S. Attorney, Bill Nettles; their counterparts in the Probation Office and in the Office of the Federal Defender; treatment service providers and members of the defense bar; and a wide range of community partners.
Just yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to modestly reduce federal-sentencing guidelines for certain drug crimes – a change that marks a major step forward in our effort to reshape the criminal justice system’s approach to dealing with drug offenses. This measured reduction sends a strong message about the need to reserve the harshest penalties for the most serious crimes. And it will help rein in spending on our overburdened prison system, which consumes nearly a third of the Justice Department’s total budget, while preserving public safety.
Holder also made mention that the Justice Department will continue to align itself with Congress to work on pushing forth legislation that will increase fairness in the criminal justice system. The plans from Holder’s department hinge on securing the passage of President Barack Obama‘s 2015 fiscal budget, which includes $173 million that will help with supporting programs like BRIDGE and the Smart On Crime initiative.
Read Holder’s speech in full here.