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Justice Department calling for reduction in drug offender sentences

The U.S. Justice Department is urging the U.S. Sentencing Commission to adopt a proposal under consideration to reduce the sentences of certain drug offenders serving time in the federal penal system, Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls for reducing sentences in some drug-related crimes late last year.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a two-level reduction in the sentencing guidelines for federal drug offenses in April of 2014 allowing for those convicted to receive lighter sentences.

"The department is proposing that the Commission make the revised guidelines retroactive for individuals who lack significant criminal histories and whose offenses did not include aggravating factors, such as the possession of a dangerous weapon or the use of violence. This approach is consistent with the department’s overall criminal justice reform efforts, which seek to reserve the harshest penalties for the most serious criminals who pose the greatest threat to public safety," according to the USDOJ Office of Public Affairs.

The two-level reduction in the Sentencing Guidelines is estimated to cut 23 months off of a sentence. Next month, that reduction in sentencing guidelines will be voted on by the Sentencing Commission as to whether it will apply to those already in prison.

The department's proposal indicates that if the offense was nonviolent, and a weapon was not used, as well as a lack of a significant criminal background, then the person would have the ability to apply for a reduction of his sentence as set forth by the new rules the Commission approved in April 2014.

“Not everyone in prison for a drug-related offense would be eligible. Nor would everyone who is eligible be guaranteed a reduced sentence. But this proposal strikes the best balance between protecting public safety and addressing the overcrowding of our prison system that has been exacerbated by unnecessarily long sentences,” stated Attorney General Eric Holder.

The sentencing guidelines in effect prior to this move have significantly contributed to the swelling of the federal prison population. Many offenders received extremely lengthy sentences not warranted under the old system.

This change, if adopted by the Sentencing Commission next month, will release only those offenders that pose the least amount of risk, as well as ease the overcrowding in the federal system.

Now if only the state correctional systems would implement similar rules, those prisons could also reduce populations by releasing only those that are nonviolent, and posing the least amount of risk to the public.

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"One person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose in the United States and that trend is being driven by prescription (Rx) painkillers." (drugfree.org)

If you or a loved one needs help with any type of drug abuse/addiction problem, contact these sites depending on where you live. SEMCA (Wayne County residents), CARE (Macomb County residents), PACE (Oakland County residents), Drug Free Detroit (City of Detroit residents). For those residing outside the State of Michigan, contact SAMHSA for assistance. For assistance with medical marijuana issues contact The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, Michigan Medical Marijuana Certification Center, or greentreesdetroit.com, phone number: (313) 967-9999, or (248) 677-2888.

Substance abuse and mental health treatment locator here: SAMSHA