Eric Holder: Changes in Mandatory Minimum Charging

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce a sea change in policy at the Justice Department this morning in his speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. I hope he gets a standing ovation.

“I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences,”

Since we have had a do-nothing Congress on mandatory minimums since they were enacted in Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 under President Reagan --27 years -- Holder is going to effect change through prosecutorial discretion. Why?

[Mandatory minimum sentences] "breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive."


Mandatory minimums are laws passed by Congress (as opposed to sentencing guidelines, which are discretionary.) Mandatory minimums trump the guidelines. Congress has repeatedly refused to repeal them. Judges have no discretion to impose a lesser sentence except in two instances: If the defendant cooperates with the Government and provides substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of someone else or meets the requirements of the "safety valve."

How it will work, according to the NY Times: Indictments will not specify a drug quantity for substantive or conspiracy offenses when a defendant meets the following criteria:

  • no violence involved
  • no use of a weapon
  • no sales to minors
  • no leadership role in a criminal organization
  • no ties to large-scale gangs or cartels (some report in other parts of the speech he says "no significant ties")
  • no significant criminal history

In Holder's words:

[These defendants]will now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.”

More from Holder:

"We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate -- not merely to convict, warehouse and forget."

I've been saying here for years, "America can not jail itself out of its criminal justice problems." Holder today will say:

"[W]e cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation."

Another big change: Prosecutors will urge alternative sentences to imprisonment for low-level drug offenders. One article reports he will use the words "diverting low-level offenders to programs that keep them out of federal prisons." If he is going to allow prosecutors to use diversion and deferred prosecutions like they do for corporations who commit crimes, that indeed would be another sea change. (I suspect he's going to talk about alternative sentencing following guilty pleas, rather than deferred prosecution. That still leaves the problem of collateral consequences these defendants face after completing their alternative sentence, since federal law does not provide for record sealing. With a deferred prosecution, there's no conviction and thus no record of conviction.)

Other changes Holder will announce this morning: A reduction in federal prosecutions of traditionally state crimes. He will be directing federal prosecutors a"to develop locally tailored guidelines for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not."

He will also institute increased use of compassionate release, especially for non-violent elderly offenders:

Holder also said the department is expanding a policy for considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances, and who pose no threat to the public. He said the expansion will include elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences.

As for Congress, there are two bills now pending which would provide some relief from mandatory minimums: the Smarter Sentencing Act and the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would grant judges discretion to sentence below them. (ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER CALLS FOR MAJOR SENTENCING REFORM States News Service August 7, 2013 Wednesday, )

The Safety Valve Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Rand Paul, and in the U.S. House by Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott and Republican Congressman Thomas Massie. The bills would allow federal judges to sentence nonviolent offenders below the federal mandatory minimum sentence if a lower sentence is warranted.

The Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Mike Lee, which would lower mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses, make the recent reduction in the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity retroactive, and give judges more discretion to sentence certain offenders below the mandatory minimum sentence if warranted.

There's also a bill to allow inmates to shorten their time in prison:

The Public Safety Enhancement Act, introduced in the U.S. House by Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott, which would allow certain federal prisoners to be transferred from prison to community supervision earlier if they take rehabilitation classes, saving taxpayer money while improving public safety.

Bills have been introduced several times over the past 20 years to abolish mandatory minimums. They went nowhere. 2009, 2008, 2007 (more here.) Republicans on the other hand: Here's Sensenbrenner in 2004 calling for more mandatory minimums, and the same year, proposing a five year mandatory minimum sentence for someone who passes a joint to someone who has been in rehab; and Alberto Gonzales in 2005 calling for mandatory minimums on all federal crimes.

In 1996, I testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission arguing for a fix to mandatory minimums. Even back then, we had judges on our side who were willing to work with us to effect change in Congress. We got nothing. So I'm not confident it will be any different this time. Or that if their is change, the exceptions will make them applicable to too small a group. I think Holder's plan, if it's as advertised, has the potential to get the ball rolling faster.

The place where a law change could really help would be if it were made retroactive to apply to those already serving the draconian sentences. Or, if that doesn't happen, if Obama would use his clemency power to commute their sentences.

Memo to journalists: Republicans did not coin the concept of being smart about crime instead of just tough on crime. This isn't happening because of their formation of a group using that name.

There are 325 news articles and reports using that phrase between 1/1/05 and 1/1/08 according to Lexis.com. Even Obama used the phrase during the 2007 primaries:

I will recruit more public defenders ... by forgiving college and law school loans... I will review these mandatory minimum sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the blind and counterproductive warehousing of nonviolent offenders... I will also eliminate the disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine.

Other examples: Former Detroit Mayor and ABA President Dennis Archer in Five Ideas that Could Fix the World (Oprah Magazine), available on Lexis.com:

The need for reform is clear. We've spent more than 20 years getting tougher on crime. Now we need to get smarter.

In 2005, the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC), an organization of a dozen Black professional groups, embarked on a five year program in several cities find alternatives to prison for drug abuse and end mandatory minimums. (The Crisis January 2005 - February 2005,Pg. 9 Vol. 112 No. 1, available on Lexis.com)

"It is an extremely important development that a new coalition of African American leaders is ready to provide leadership in the national debate on the need for 'smart on crime' policies, including judicial discretion in sentencing, treatment, drug courts and re-entry initiatives," says Laura M. Sager, executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

The defense bar has also been using that phrase for a long time. Just on TalkLeft, I've used it a dozen times between 2007 and 2009. So don't let the Republicans and their Johnny Come Lately group take credit for it. If they were really behind the idea, they would have gotten Congress to act well before now, and Holder wouldn't need to effect the change through the use of prosecutorial discretion.

What will be the effect of Holder's changes if Congress doesn't act? One that immediately comes to mind:

There will be less incentive for those who qualify for Holder's plan to cooperate with the Government and become a snitch: With the hammer of the mandatory minimum gone, those who can't qualify for the safety valve because of having more than one criminal history point(which could just result from a d.u.i and a petty theft up to 10 years ago)will now have a way to seek a lower sentence without having to cooperate.

Hillary Clinton will also be in S.F. tomorrow to get an ABA award. Where was she on mandatory minimums during the 2007 primaries? Against them. At a debate at Howard University:

Number one, we do have to go after racial profiling. I’ve supported legislation to try to tackle that.

Number two, we have to go after mandatory minimums. You know, mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate, but it has been too widely used. And it is using now a discriminatory impact.

Three, we need diversion, like drug courts. Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system. (Applause.)

We need to make sure that we do deal with the distinction between crack and powder cocaine. And ultimately we need an attorney general and a system of justice that truly does treat people equally, and that has not happened under this administration. (Applause.)

There will be those who are skeptical of Holder's motives for doing this. I'm not one of them. I think he's seen the writing on the wall that Congress sits and twiddles its thumbs and talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. Holder is willing to stick his neck out and make changes defense lawyers have been clamoring for for more than 25 years. My response to Holder very simple: Thank you.

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    Excellent post Jeralyn (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by CoralGables on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 07:10:50 AM EST
    Now of course I'll patiently wait for those that can't help but voice their indignation. Not because it's a bad idea by Holder, but because their day isn't made until they find displeasure even in the things they like.

    My first thought was that the GOP (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Anne on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 08:02:18 AM EST
    is going to scream that this is all about making more people eligible to vote for Democrats...you know, what with the midterms only a year away.

    The GOP (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 08:41:40 AM EST
    will always scream and say no. I believe it was Michael Grunwald that wrote of the plan by Cantor and McConnell to go with "No" to anything suggested or offered by Obama before he even took office.

    The quote from former Ohio Senator George Voinovich describing the GOP leadership plan for the upcoming Obama presidency said it best:

    "If he was for it, we had to be against it."


    If you gotta have tyranny... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 08:03:32 AM EST
    it may as well be a kinder and gentler tyranny.

    Welcome news from Holder, but I'll be your Debbie Downer and voice my frustration that despite the improvement in policy he still supports prohibition in name and deed, just a less draconian prohibition.  Classic "better, not best".

    Now when he proposes no prosecutions at all, and total repeal of prohibition, I'll really sing his praises on the issue, less the Debbie Downer asterisk.  


    kdog (none / 0) (#5)
    by CoralGables on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 08:54:22 AM EST
    you realize though (I think) that you are out there on the edge fighting a fight that is unlikely to be won in your lifetime.

    I once hoped capital punishment in the US would end in the days before John Spenkelink was executed. Now I'd be thrilled if it happened before I'm dead. And if it does, I won't complain a bit if it's accomplished by instituting life without parole.

    Progress is always good, except for those that find their joy in displeasure (and that ain't you).

    Kudos to Holder.


    Progress is action (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Dadler on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:20:29 AM EST
    This is nothing but talk right now, IMO, from an Admin is full spin mode post-Snowden. And KDog is only on the fringe on this issue, again IMO, because the fringe is the ONLY place where there is any SENSE on this issue. And he's NOT on the fringes when it comes to marijuana, the federal government is still fully an enemy of the people on that issue. A complete enemy.

    The ridiculous irony, is Obama is a guy who MAKES HIS OWN RECREATIONAL DRUGS right in the White House, brewing his own beer (the biggest killer drug in the country, it should be added, infinitely more dangerous than, say, MJ).

    Count me as a person who will consider progress as coming from people who haven't proven themselves utter intellectual and political prostitutes.

    There is just no history with this government that leads me to believe anything will change. Sorry, just my very skeptical opionion,


    Yes... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:08:20 AM EST
    I realize true, sometimes uncomfortable, individual liberty doesn't have many friends, and the tyranny of prohibition is popular, especially for hard drugs.  For my sacrament alone, I think my view has become the majority view, and we just might see it in my lifetime.  10 years ago I'd have said no way.

    I just don't know if you can really call it progress when Holder, Obama, Clinton etc. still claim prohibition is proper and just and constitutional, only with less cage time or diversion or prosecutorial discretion attached aka kinder and gentler.  To prohibit alcohol a constitional amendment was required, I never understood why no amendment was required to prohibit all the other prohibited substances.  It's not only wrong, it's cheating!



    amendment required (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:28:53 AM EST

    The reason is that amendment was required at a time when the feds could only regulate interstate commerce, not intrastate or personal behavior.  Since then the Supremes have ruled that anything that can effect interstate commerce (i.e.evertyhing) is fair game for the feds.

    This, IMO, is pure cynicism (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Dadler on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:16:17 AM EST
    If this is SUCH an important issue to this Admin, it would've gotten attention much earlier. While I think it's good in the abstract (obviously, who wouldn't), until anything actually gets done, which I have little doubt it will, I will file this under cynical bullsh*t akin to Al Qaeda lie tossed out by the Admin last week -- IOW, it's all Snowden related, an attempt to get the public back in line, either with fear or political carrots.

    It's nice, but when actions follow it will be real. Right now, just very cheap talk from an Attorney General who has shown himself to be, like his boss, a huge piece of nothing.

    Yes. (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Edger on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:25:43 AM EST
    Tossing crumbs off the stage at dejected sycophants while laughing at them has always worked well to energize them in the past, too.

    Not so much tossing crumbs (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Peter G on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:26:41 PM EST
    the Administration's "liberal" supporters as a useful but grossly insufficient reform designed to create an excuse to oppose real corrective legislation in Congress -- repeal of mandatory sentencing laws, or, failing that, expansion of the "safety valve" law -- on the ground that these policy reforms have rendered powerful legislative action unnecessary.

    "little doubt it will" (none / 0) (#19)
    by Dadler on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:57:30 AM EST
    should've read "huge doubts that it will"



    Help Me Out (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:02:38 AM EST
    I was under the belief that low lever users/dealers aren't prosecuted by the Fed, they are handed off the locals.  I thought for the most part the Fed only prosecutes people who would not qualify for this exception.

    Am I wrong ?

    In either case, this doesn't do jack for the majority of people who are not busted by the Fed who still get ridiculous sentences for non-nonsensical using/possessing charges.

    And lastly, give me as break, Holder and Obama are not to be believed or trusted when it comes to many issues in including all aspects of the war on drugs.  The past has proved what they say and what Federal Agencies actually do are rarely one in the same.

    Several things: one, these new (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:06:04 AM EST
    policies will apply only at the federal level; changes in policy and/or law at the state level will need to be made in state legislatures.  Some states have already gone in the direction Holder says the feds are now going, but how you will be treated depends in large part on where you live.

    Two, it isn't that there will no longer be mandatory minimum sentences, it's that Holder is mandating changes to charging policies; if you aren't charged with a crime to which mandatory minimum sentencing would apply, you can't be sentenced under those minimums.  

    Three, if memory serves, there are still a number of Republican US Attorneys still in place, and it would be interesting to know whether the kinds of changes Holder says he is mandating will be coming to those districts as quickly and be applied as diligently as we might expect they will  under Democratic US Attorneys.

    Four, so we have new charging mandates at the federal level; will there be any changes at the federal enforcement level?  Will there be any easing of arrests and sweeps involving recreational and medicinal users, or will those people continue to be fed into the system, albeit with lesser consequences attached?

    Finally, it has to be asked: why now?  Why not in the first year of the administration's first term?  Is this an experiment in advance of eventually advocating some degree of legalization at the federal level?  Kind of a hey-look-the-world-has-not-come-to-an-end-and-we-haven't-increased-drug-use-by-easing-up approach?

    I'll be interested to see what the overall reaction is, how many prosecutors resign or ask to be transferred over this, what Congress thinks it has to do in order to prevent Holder from instituting these policies.  It's important to remember that what the DOJ can mandate with apparent ease, it can also rescind, so it remains to be seen whether this will happen, and how long it will be allowed to exist.

    More (none / 0) (#20)
    by jbindc on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 11:04:35 AM EST

    The attorney general can make some of these changes to drug policy on his own. He is giving new instructions to federal prosecutors on how they should write their criminal complaints when charging low-level drug offenders, to avoid triggering the mandatory minimum sentences. Under certain statutes, inflexible sentences for drug crimes are mandated regardless of the facts or conduct in the case, reducing the discretion of prosecutors, judges and juries.

    Some of Holder's other initiatives will require legislative change. Holder is urging passage of legislation with bipartisan support that is aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimum sentences to certain drug offenses.

    "Such legislation will ultimately save our country billions of dollars," Holder said of legislation supported by Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). "Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable."

    Language, please. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jbindc on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:22:21 AM EST

    It's a shame, too (none / 0) (#21)
    by sj on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 11:45:57 AM EST
    I hope the comment doesn't get deleted for it. There is good information in there.

    Re-posted [# 25 below] (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Stephanator on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 06:15:42 PM EST
    Without the naughty word . . .

    thanks, I did delete the first one due to the (none / 0) (#27)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 06:29:23 PM EST
    use of that word. (You are allowed to use asterisks in place of letters.)

    Same stuff, different bag (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Stephanator on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 06:10:38 PM EST
    Holder's directive says that henceforth some defendants will now be charged under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(C) rather other provisions of the statute that provide mandatory minimum sentences. Which defendants?

    Under a policy memorandum being sent to all United States attorney offices on Monday, according to an administration official, prosecutors will be told that they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: their conduct did not involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.


    These criteria include the same requirements prescribed for the Safety Valve - 18 USC 3553(f) - the existing statute that already allows low-level drug defendants to escape the mandatory minimum terms prescribed by law. One difference is that to qualify for the Safety Valve, a defendant must give a statement about his criminal conduct before sentencing. Holder's directive contains no such requirement. However, Holder's directive disqualifies anyone accused of selling drugs to minors or having "significant ties" to gangs. This means that his charging directive is narrower than the mandatory minimum escape hatch that already exists under federal law.

    So the big change is that the Department of Justice will refrain from charging offenses carrying mandatory minimums where the defendant would qualify for the Safety Valve under existing law, but only where the defendant is not alleged to have sold drugs to minors or alleged to have "significant ties" to gangs. This change will have no effect whatsoever on the number of people sentenced to mandatory minimum terms in drug cases. Anybody charged with a mandatory minimum offense who qualifies for the Safety Valve can already escape the harsh penalties.

    The NYT reports that in his speech Holder recited "a litany of statistics about incarceration in the United States." But he neglected to explain how his new directive would affect the nation's prison population. Probably just an oversight. Or not.

    If the Attorney General really wanted do some good, he could review the unjust applications of federal mandatory minimum sentences [see, e.g, http://www.famm.org/FacesofFAMM], and recommend that his boss take remedial action through presidential commutations. This would correct the past injustices arising from mandatory minimum sentences and reduce the prison population. Alas, it would also involve looking backward.

    incorrect (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 07:12:59 PM EST
    Your comment is incorrect that it will only apply to those who are already safety-valve eligible.

    Safety valve is anyone with no more than one criminal history point.

    Holder's memo to the U.S. Attorneys today defines someone without a significant criminal history as:

    A significant criminal history will normally be evidenced by three or more criminal history points but may involve fewer or greater depending on the nature of any prior convictions.

    That means many of those in Criminal History Category II are eligible for the new policy. (Criminal History II is someone with 2 or 3 points.)

    Also, this is a big change: Instructing prosecutors to consider asking for non-guideline sentences:

    In cases where the properly calculated guideline range meets or exceeds the mandatory minimum, prosecutors should consider whether a below-guidelines sentence is sufficient to satisfy the purposes of sentencing as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

    In determining the appropriate sentence to recommend to the Court, prosecutors should consider whether the defendant truthfully and in a timely way provided to the Government all information the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct, common scheme, or plan.non-charging policy.

    So prosecutors can now ask for those who don't get the 2 point safety valve reduction under 2D1.1(b)(16) because they have more than 1 criminal history point to get the same 2 point reduction those who do qualify get -- or more.

    2D1.1(b)(16): If the defendant meets the criteria set forth in subdivisions (1)-(5) of subsection (a) of §5C1.2 (Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Minimum Sentences in Certain Cases), decrease by 2 levels.

    Another big change: No more using 851 (recidivism which doubles the mandatory minimum) as a hammer to get defendants to cooperate:

    Prosecutors should decline to file an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 unless the defendant is involved in conduct that makes the case appropriate for severe sanctions.

    Also, he instructs prosecutors to consider whether to charge at all:

    As with every case, prosecutors should determine, as a threshold matter, whether a case serves a substantial federal interest. In some cases, satisfaction of the above criteria meant for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders may indicate that prosecution would not serve a substantial federal interest and that the case should not be brought federally.

    Sorry for the overstatement . . . (none / 0) (#33)
    by Stephanator on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 08:20:14 PM EST
    I was wrong to say the policy would have "no effect whatsoever."  But how many Criminal History Category II drug defendants with two (or perhaps three) criminal history points and no significant gang ties will actually benefit from this exercise of prosecutorial discretion?  I hope the total will exceed the number of those whose disproportionately harsh drug crime sentences have been reduced by the exercise of executive clemency during Obama's time as President.

    Criminal History Points 101 - from wiki (none / 0) (#36)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:49:46 PM EST
    To my untrained eye, they look a bit like the rules of Calvinball:

    "There are six criminal history categories. Each category is associated with a range of criminal history points. Thus, for example, a defendant with 0 or 1 criminal history points would be in Criminal History Category I, while a defendant with 13 or more criminal history points would be in Criminal History Category VI. The criminal history points are calculated by adding 3 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month; adding 2 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment of at least sixty days but not more than 13 months; adding 1 point for each prior sentence of less than sixty days; adding 2 points if the defendant committed the instant offense while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or escape status; adding 2 points if the defendant committed the instant offense less than two years after release from imprisonment on a sentence of sixty days or more or while in imprisonment or escape status on such a sentence, except that if 2 points are added committing the offense while under a criminal justice sentence, adding only 1 point for this item; and adding 1 point for each prior sentence resulting from a conviction of a crime of violence that did not receive any points because such sentence was counted as a single sentence, up to a total of 3 points for this item."

    Glad to see at least a start (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by Teresa on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 07:17:47 PM EST
    What can the feds do as an incentive to make states do something about their own laws like this?

    I know someone slightly through a friend that got caught in Florida, where he lived, in a drug sting of users, not dealers. He had less than 75 pain pills (two kinds of the same type) and he got 12 years. He was buying when arrested, not selling.

    12 years! He has two little kids and just finished his second year in January. The best good time he can gain is around 15%, so his kids will be mostly grown by then. I don't know what the state gained when it could have sent him to rehab and he'd be with his family.

    I'm with Kdog on drug "crimes" that only affect the user. I know pills are not the same as pot, but he could have lived a productive life and now will be starting all over with a record when he's in his mid-thirties.

    An Oxy addict (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:48:36 PM EST
    doesn't necessarily have a bunch of weird behavior, or get high in the sense of say someone who drinks. Talk to some people with severe chronic pain, and its a tightrope between addiction and managing pain to a level where they can function.

    People I've met were both miserable, and totally unable to quit on their own, if they even recognized the addiction. To them they "needed" so many pills per day, and needed them badly. Nothing short of a locked ward and careful monitoring seemed to work, and then it resets back to the basic issue of pain management.


    This (none / 0) (#31)
    by jbindc on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 07:31:37 PM EST
    ... on drug "crimes" that only affect the user.
    is a fallacious argument.

    While there is merit to changing the drug laws in this country, and opting for rehab over prison in many cases is a better outcome, is it really just the user that's affected?  What about the "two little kids"?  

    Drugs just don't affect "the user".


    I see (5.00 / 4) (#32)
    by sj on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 07:56:51 PM EST
    cognitive dissonance in this comment.
    While there is merit to changing the drug laws in this country, and opting for rehab over prison in many cases is a better outcome, is it really just the user that's affected?  What about the "two little kids"?  

    Drugs just don't affect "the user".

    The two little kids are affect by the drug laws. You have no way of knowing how the kids were affected by the actual drugs. Maybe he was a better human being for experiencing less pain. Maybe he was more malicious. You don't know, and I don't know. But I do know that those two kids are deeply affected by the drug laws.

    Addicts... (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 08:39:43 AM EST
    are still capable to love and to parent...even be great parents.  My father is but one example.  

    Though his addiction did cause problems for the family at times, those problems pale in comparison to the problems we would have had if pops had been locked up and taken from us.  But his drug of choice was legal...thank god.


    No one is saying (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by jbindc on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 09:39:14 AM EST
    addicts can't love.

    But to say that drug use affects no one but the user is just plain wrong.


    Drug use alone... (5.00 / 3) (#42)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 09:54:45 AM EST
    can effect just the user, or it can effect others too to varying degrees...depends on the usage, the user, the drug(s) and other factors.

    To say incarceration only effects the incarcerated is just plain wrong.  

    No easy answers, lots of gray...but on the whole breaking up families via incarceration is just another burden to bear, certainly not a help.


    No (none / 0) (#44)
    by jbindc on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 12:02:40 PM EST
    but breaking up families because daddy has to go back and forth to rehab, or worse, doesn't get help, and devolves into psychosis, depression, or has a whole host of premature ailments and sicknesses (and / or dies prematurely) certainly aren't things that just concerns a user.

    Also, job losses, divorce, money being spent on drugs instead of household needs, costs of rehab, etc.  Those too, just don't affect the user - you don't even have to consider the criminal aspect of drugs.

    I say it again - not "victimless".


    In my case... (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    it most certainly is victimless...100 bucks says you can't produce a victim!

    Seems like you consider the ups and downs of life as a "victimizer" of some sort.  Like Scott said, you can "victimize" your family with too much religion or watching too much tv.  Drugs aren't that special, despite the boogey-man they are made out to be by prohibitionists and moralists.  Just another part of life and the human experience with positives and negatives, with the negatives more prevalent when one lacks moderation.  


    Will I do? (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by DebFrmHell on Wed Aug 14, 2013 at 06:00:07 PM EST
    Not only the child of an alcoholic and as an alcoholic/drug user for 4 decades in turn "victimized" my family and friends up to and including losing everyone I loved and everything I owned the hard way on two different occasions.

    The easy way was gradually losing all material aspects.  I kind of got used to that.  

    Looking back, my highs and lows were really more very, very lows and to less or medium lows for a life not-so-well-lived.


    Yeah, Deb (none / 0) (#54)
    by jbindc on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 09:46:19 AM EST
    Try not to bring reality into conversation with this crowd.

    They will always respond with, "But alcohol is legal!" or "How about the price of incarceration?"

    They don't like to see the negative aspects, or at least, it's minimized and you shouldn't worry your pretty little head about it - it's all good, doncha know?


    I Would Add... (none / 0) (#46)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 01:30:51 PM EST
    ...the people that use, especially alcohol and weed, to reduce the stress of everyday life and how that has a positive impact on the folks around them.

    Putting all possible (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by sj on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 01:53:16 PM EST
    worst case scenarios together into one big messy pot doesn't make all "drug crimes" equal no matter how you cut it. Every one of those symptoms can hurt (make victims of) a family without drugs of any kind being in the mix.But I'll let you continue to create your victim pools and conflate your imaginings with real life situations because I know once you have crawled onto this ledge there is no talking you off it.

    And I know (none / 0) (#53)
    by jbindc on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 09:44:09 AM EST
    in your delusional little mind, that it's a black and white issue - drugs are fine, they don't hurt, yadda, yadda yadda.

    Your trolling cracks me up sometimes.


    Then why is alcohol legal? Because (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Anne on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 03:18:27 PM EST
    the effects of alcohol use and abuse are at least as great, if not greater, than that of drug use and abuse, and yet, as long as you are of legal age, and have the money to buy it, you are good to go.  You can't be arrested for buying it, or making it, and assuming all permits and licenses are in order, the liquor store is legally permitted to sell it to you.

    All those things you listed are just as valid for alcohol use - destruction of families, job loss, domestic abuse, and so on.  But for some reason, we don't put the kinds of restrictions on alcohol as we put on drugs.  Would I want heroin and oxy and other drugs whose names I won't spell out here just available to be purchased over the counter?  Probably not.  But I have no idea why, given its central nervous system and general systemic effects, alcohol doesn't require a prescription - just a valid ID and the the means to pay for it.


    Drug addiction and alcohol (none / 0) (#55)
    by MKS on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 11:02:58 AM EST
    abuse are both trouble.

    Drugs should be decriminalized.  But alcoholism and drug addiction are terrible afflictions that hurt many, many people beyond just the users.

    Just because something may be (or should be) legal does not make it a good idea.


    Sometimes I wonder whether (none / 0) (#56)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 03:56:57 PM EST
    the libertarians want the deseperately poor to self medicate, act out, and then give the authorties a "real reason" to round them all up..Speeding up the social darwinsim that much more, as it were.. helping things along a little bit..

    The dirty little secret around here seems to be that many people don't keep it together well at all, and some become dangerously psychotic, when they're high..Then what do most civilised societies do? Intervene and detain them one way or another..


    Agreed, But for This Particular Example... (none / 0) (#43)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 09:56:06 AM EST
    ...it doesn't work very well.

    Loads of functioning addicts who have few issues in their lives until they meet up with the law.

    And not to point out the obvious, but just about anything is going to effect the people in close proximity, from being a workaholic to being a zealot, to whatever.  

    Drugs are not the only thing that negatively effect people and the folks around them when it's not done in moderation.  But they are one of the very few that will land you in jail.


    First Immegration law. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:23:30 AM EST

    Then the employer mandate.

    Now this.

    Why bother to pass laws at all when this administration will simply pick and choose those which it will faithfully execute.

    THIS administration? (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Yman on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:51:27 AM EST
    Why bother to pass laws at all when this administration will simply pick and choose those which it will faithfully execute.

    Since this is done by every administration, you think we should simply rescind all laws?


    Totally incorrect and fallacious (5.00 / 5) (#34)
    by Peter G on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:02:01 PM EST
    to equate a transparently announced and openly explained policy of prosecutorial discretion and enforcement priorities with "lawlessness."  That's just not honest.  No administration (or local DA and/or police force, for that matter) can or should prosecute every violation of the law that comes to its attention, and society cannot afford and would not benefit from every violation that is prosecuted being prosecuted to the max.  

    You can take comfort in knowing (none / 0) (#11)
    by CoralGables on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:53:36 AM EST
    if your party of no wins the presidency in the 2024 election they can always overturn it.

    Actually I agree (none / 0) (#17)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:30:47 AM EST

    with the policy, but not with the lawlessness.

    You know if this was August 2009 (none / 0) (#24)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 03:38:31 PM EST
    you might have a point, but the Obama administration has spent 4 and a half years being deferential to congress on this stuff (much to the chagrin of a lot of their supporters) and now has apparently deciding smashing ones head against the wall to no effect is stupid.

    No opinion, but (none / 0) (#22)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 11:54:49 AM EST
    makes me wonder what it will mean in practice.

    No sales to minors, does that mean someone who sells to minors, but is caught by an adult making a purchase is treated as if they don't sell to minors?

    Are previous convictions for small amounts considered a significant criminal record?

    Will absence of harsh sentences mean far fewer people willing to rat out their suppliers?

    link to his full comments is (none / 0) (#28)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 06:31:39 PM EST
    here. Please don't reprint more than a paragraph or two to make a point here.

    From what I have seen so far, the changes (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Peter G on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 09:08:34 AM EST
    to the Compassionate Release guidelines are the most radical and potentially far-reaching.  For the first time, thanks to the changes put into effect yesterday, the BoP may recommend release not only of prisoners with a diagnosed terminal illness (with anticipated life expectancy of 18 months or less) but also - elderly and long-time served; older and ill; disabling and incurable medical condition; death of family member leaving a dependent w/o a caregiver, and several others.  All of these are described in the new policy in detail; obviously, I am not providing those details here.  This topic was recently discussed at some length on TL in relation to Lynne Stewart's release efforts.

    thanks Peter (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 03:40:51 PM EST
    I just wrote a new post on the new compassionate release guidelines and linked to them.

    When (none / 0) (#48)
    by Mikado Cat on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 02:03:22 PM EST
    Something actually happens the policy will be much more clear.

    When something bad happens as a result it will be clearer still.


    how will this (none / 0) (#37)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:53:39 PM EST
    work with regard to equal protection?

    I would think the next person who get charged with the full mandatory sentencing that has a bit of gray in how well they fit the profile will complain.

    Bogus equal protection argument (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by Peter G on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 05:42:32 PM EST
    Under Supreme Court precedent since the mid-1970s, to prove an equal protection violation (unless you are a Republican presidential candidate challenging Florida's county-by-county vote-counting rules) the challenger bears the burden of proving a discriminatory intent, based on an invidious classification.  A claim that the government has failed to apply its own rules fairly to you, while applying them to others you consider to be similarly situated to yourself, is insufficient.