U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants to save money on prisons and make the federal justice system fairer — and has proposed doing it by sidestepping Congress. His approach is far from ideal, but the goals are compelling enough to justify it.
The unfairness of criminal sentencing in the U.S. — and the iniquities of mandatory minimum sentences, in particular — is no secret. The system imposes harsher punishments on minorities than on whites and sends nonviolent drug offenders to prison for years. In denying courts the power to take the circumstances of particular crimes into account when weighing sentences, the mandatory minimums renounce a core principle of justice. The situation cries out for remedy.
As Holder said today, “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” He’s right, and it’s shameful.