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FAMM and the NACDL Applaud U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's Speech

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers posted a news release on the importance of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's speech, specifically honoring his opinion on smarter sentencing:

By basing sentencing decisions on static factors and immutable characteristics – like the defendant’s education level, socioeconomic background, or neighborhood – they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society. Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant’s history of criminal conduct. They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place.

Likewise, FAMM applauds Holder, as FAMM general counsel, Mary Price says:

“We applaud Holder for putting research ahead of rhetoric. His statements today reflect what researchers have known awhile now: The certainty of punishment, not the severity, is what matters....”

Holdern speaks from experience:

“Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory minimum sentence”....

Moving forward, we must continue to come together – across aisles that divide counsel tables and political parties – to ensure that America has a criminal justice system that’s worthy of its highest ideals. To make certain that those who pay their debts to society have fair opportunities to become productive, law-abiding citizens. And to empower justice professionals to meet 21 st -century crime challenges with 21 st -century solutions....

With this goal in mind – one year ago – I launched a new “Smart on Crime” initiative, which includes a series of targeted, data-driven reforms that are designed to advance these goals. Since that time, my colleagues and I have implemented a range of meaningful changes – by increasing our focus on proven diversion and reentry strategies; by making criminal justice expenditures both smarter and more productive; and by moving decisively away from outdated and overly-stringent sentencing regimes....

I want to be very clear: we will never stop being vigilant in our pursuit of justice .... But years of intensive study – and decades of professional experience – have shown that we will never be able to prosecute and incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation....

[T]he Smart on Crime initiative has led us to revise the Justice Department’s charging policies with regard to mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal, drug-related crimes ... amending federal sentencing guidelines for low-level drug trafficking crimes...these new guidelines will impact almost 70 percent of people who are convicted of these offenses. And last month, the Commission voted to allow judges to apply these revised guidelines retroactively in cases where reductions are warranted....

I’ve called on Congress to expand upon and further institutionalize the changes we’ve put in place – so we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation while saving billions of dollars and reducing our overreliance on incarceration....

At the state level, data-driven reforms are resulting in reduced prison populations – and importantly, those reductions are disproportionately impacting men of color. We should celebrate this milestone – a turning point – and hope that front-end applications can also result in both public safety and racial justice. Careful study of the issue is warranted....

Click to see his complete prepared remarks.