Charlie Savage, in the NYTimes:
In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a speech at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday, is expected to announce the new policy as one of several steps intended to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and help correct what he regards as unfairness in the justice system, according to his prepared remarks….
Mr. Holder will also introduce a related set of Justice Department policies that would leave more crimes to state courts to handle, increase the use of drug-treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration, and expand a program of “compassionate release” for “elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences.”….
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…
“While the federal prison system has continued to slowly expand, significant state-level reductions have led to three consecutive years of decline in America’s overall prison population — including, in 2012, the largest drop ever experienced in a single year,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “Clearly, these strategies can work. They’ve attracted overwhelming, bipartisan support in ‘red states’ as well as ‘blue states.’ And it’s past time for others to take notice.”…
Mr. Holder’s speech marches through a litany of statistics about incarceration in the United States. The American population has grown by about a third since 1980, he said, but its prison rate has increased nearly 800 percent. At the federal level, more than 219,000 inmates are currently behind bars — nearly half for drug-related crimes — and the prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above their official capacity.
See. Obama can do an end-run around any law he doesn’t like, when he wants to. Puts into perspective his claims that his hands are tied when it comes to the debt ceiling or congressional obstruction.
No. He can tweak around the edges of programs and divert focus from one area to another. But, he can’t do things like close Guantanamo . As for the debt ceiling. It’s a law. A very stupid law but still a law. He can probably shift things around a bit and hide or postpone some spending. But, if he actually ignored it, there would be a zillion lawsuits immediately and the House would almost certainly start braying for impeachment, while passing numerous bills cutting programs they don’t like to get the numbers back under the limit again.
i suspect even a fairly limited and common sense set of proposals like the ones Holder made are going to get some serious /outrage from all the usual sources. And, I wouldn’t be shocked if a fair number of cowardly Dems went along with the /outrage while very few, if any, will be strong supporters.
It’s a paranoid right-wing twit’s bonanza.
Thousands of criminals to be put on the streets equipped with Obamaphones secretly programmed with NSA data telling them when you’re not at home, what your alarm code is, and exactly where that silver you inherited from Aunt Millie is.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is a disaster. Our war on drugs is a disaster. How ironic that the only thing that can get this country to do anything about either is the price tag. It doesn’t matter how unjust they are; only how much they cost. How perfectly American.
@TriassicSands: Private prisons are state budget busters, too. Why do you think they are cutting schools so deeply. It’s all those guaranteed bed contracts with private prisons. But somehow contracts with state workers are renegotiable.
Why not Day 1 of his first term? Why now? The reason isn’t idealistic or ethical or this would have been DOJ policy from the start. I guess the reason is entirely political… but that’s just the cynic in me.
True and true, however sometimes to do what is just you need additional justification for some people to build a coalition.
Maybe. Obama is a political animal.
But I don’t think this will be politically advantageous.
BTW, I think it’s a wonderful idea!
Clearly, the only take from this news is that once again, Obama has failed progressives.
Obama always turns his back on progressives, that is what he does. He sits and chortles over their unhappiness, and designs his schemes to give them the greatest pains.
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
Tangentially, Hedges: America’s Disappeared
Political in that, if he’d done it before now, it would have been another way to demonize him and endanger his reelection. Now that he doesn’t need to worry about reelection any more, he can go ahead and do the only thing he can do to alleviate the situation since he can’t change the actual sentencing laws. What do you think he’s running for at this point for this to be some kind of cynical political move on his part?
Jeez, emoprogs really can’t think through the stupid shit they throw at the president any more than the moran Teabaggers can.
And they’ll all get Obamacare and their voting rights back just before Hussein Superallah Obama uses the Constitution as a prayer rug and runs for a THIRD TERM!
@p.a.: No, No. Let me help.
You mean he’s going to smoke it?
Or trade it to Putin in exchange for Snowden?
/O, what a tangled web they weave
@NotMax: I thought he used it to whip his arse.
Stupid apres-nap drowsinesss.
You mean he’s not going to smoke it?
@jank_w: Why would it be purely political now, in August of a non-election year? What possible political benefit would they get now as opposed to a year ago or a year from now?
It seems like a simple change, but sometimes simple changes take forever in a bureaucracy. The most likely explanation for why now is that this has been debated within Justice for years and was finally presented to Holder and Obama for a final decision before Holder’s ABA speech. In Washington, you announce things in August because you’re trying to de-politicize them, not for political gain. Hopefully this will be last month’s issue by the time Congress is back in session.
And yet, as a Democrat, i canvassed in 2008 not thinking at all about re-election of a potential presdident. Funny that.
Well, you weren’t running for the presidency so reelection wasn’t top of mind for you. But I’m quite sure Obama and every other politician thinks about it all the time. But now Obama doesn’t need to think about it ever again. So he can do things he couldn’t have done otherwise.
@BillinGlendaleCA: schweet. I never think big enough.
Doctor Saint President Jill Stein would have done it on Day 1.
@Botsplainer: Obviously she is not a pure progressive then, a true progressive would have done it on day -1.
@Botsplainer: Ha! For a second there, wasn’t sure if you were for real.
Good move by Obama/Holder.
It’s called “prosecutorial discretion”, dumbass. Look it up.
@geg6: So what’s Obama going to do after January 2017? He will be quite young for an ex-President at this point so the usual retirement option of elder statesman doesn’t really fit him. I like the idea of him running for Governor of Hawaii but has he ever mentioned what his plans might be?
Worth pointing out that the most Rand has ever proposed to do (with Leahy) is to give judges more discretion in drug sentencing.
She should have made that declaration of that inevitability ahead of the revolution, so as to ensure the dialectic caused the foes of the revolution to fear the righteousness of the Will of the People.
Who would have thought the President of the United States would turn out to be a politician?
Agreed. But I remember practicing before our state (NC) had mandatory minimums for ‘trafficking” offenses and judges had a lot more leeway in sentencing. Guess who routinely got the longer sentences, and not just for drug cases.
Well, given the imbalance of the judiciary in favor of Lawn Order, crazy Cousin Liberty figured it was kind of a no brainer, as the correct sorts of people will continue going to prison in huge numbers.
Feature, not bug. You. Never heard whimpering about law enforcement and court overreach until the system started treating white middle class folks the same way blacks and browns have ALWAYS been treated.
A lot of people apparently thought that “Hope and Change” meant we’d all be living in Happy Liberal Mushroom Land on Day 1, and have been screaming “OMG WE ARE BETRAAAAAAAAAAYED!!111!!!! ” since before the first inauguration, when they discovered that the Obama in their head (the one that was going to crush the wingnuts beneath his Mighty Boots of Progressive Doom) actually bears no resemblance to the moderate consensus-seeking middle of the roader he actually is.
Everything disappoints them. Even if Obama does something they’d normally approve of, it’s “WHY DIDN’T HE DO THIS SOONER OMG HE’S WORSE THAN BUSH!”
And boy do they get pissy and self righteous when you point that out.
President for Life of the new North American Union, duh. They can put photos of him, Michelle, Sasha, Malia and Bo on the new Amero currency, which will be denominated in pesos.
Aw, I was hoping for quatloos.
I especially like the ones who both crow that THEY didn’t fall for Obama’s promise of “hope and change”, while simultaneously complaining that he failed to deliver on it.
Hookers and blow.
OT – Chunky Reese has something to say about Politico.
Nope, pesos. And NAU congressional districting in its lower chamber will be done on a nonpartisan commission basis, with the upper chamber being weighted in favor of heavily populated states. California, Ontario, Mexico City DF, New York get bunches of senators to Wyoming’s single senator.
It will be interesting to see in 2017 if the new (presumably white and hopefully Democratic) President will be subjected to the same, umm, exacting standards as President Obama has been. Anybody want the over/under on THAT one?
Well, if it’s Hillary, you’ll probably see something similar due to the misogyny.
@Baud: Similar, yes. To the same degree, no.
Hillary will get less fear and more condescension.
Jack the Second
@geg6: I don’t think it’s just reelection/”fuck you I don’t have to run again”. To me it feels more like Obama admitting nothing will happen legislatively for the next three years.
Fixing everything by Presidential proclamation is the worst possible way to fix something. It has no sticking power. Sure, we think we have a good chance of holding the White House in 2016, but every time we fix something like this the traitorous opposition drafts a proclamation reversing it and puts it in a big folder for President Romney or Paul or Cruz or King or Santorum to issue on day one of his Presidency.
While this act is a good thing, and will help thousands of people between now and 2017, it isn’t winning. It is admitting defeat.
I’ve never understood this. I mean, yes, I can understand wishing Obama had done different things, I’ve been there too, but I was never under any illusion that he was anything but a moderate (as in, early 21st century) Democrat, that’s the face that he was presenting all through the election. Of course he wasn’t going to be a thinner Michael Moore. I really will never understood those who ever thought he would be.
The Red Pen
Freepers gone wild.
Nothing you can imagine is as crazy as the real thing.
On an unrelated note: Missouri State Fair includes Obama-faced clown run down by bull.
Clearly, the problem is that Obama isn’t being nice and respectful enough to those lovely salt-of-the-earth people with strong family values who would totally vote for him if only [insert platitude here].
@Jack the Second:
@The Red Pen:
So do the Freepers hate anti-drug-war libertarians, or do you think there is something else going on?
@Baud: Thanks for correcting that. It’s not admitting defeat when you accept that nothing will get done while insane assholes control at least one very important part of the branches of government.
Exactly. I knew we weren’t going to get Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders–this time. The window’s not going to move that far in one leap. But Obama was, and is, closer to where I am than anyone who had a chance of winning, and that included Clinton.
This isn’t “the lesser of two evils”. This is recognizing that sometimes change comes slowly and you take what you can get now, then come back for more next time.
Have been thinking exactly the same thing. They will get a pass on everything because you have to give them the benefit of the doubt–unlike Obama who is always always assumed guilty and of evil intentions, before any of the facts are out, or the results are in.
@Chris: We have entered the age where political correctness is a sin and klan rallies are just an expression of free speech.
This is a Big Fucking Deal.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Red Pen
That is one of the ongoing internal battles at Free Republic. The Rand Paul faction is strong, but a lot of the old farts note that most hardcore Libertarians support abortion rights as well as eliminating drug laws. And don’t get them started on prostitution! It’s a microcosm of some of what’s tearing the Republican party apart. The only thing missing is the dwindling core of Republicans connected with reality.
Freepers are all about their freedom to do what they want. The Libertarians among them are a little too quick to offer that privilege to people outside the bubble, and the authoritarians see them as infiltrators with a veiled liberal agenda. It’s essentially a political battle between the people who want to be ruled by the Church and people who want to be ruled by a system of feudal lords.
@The Red Pen:
More complexity than I realized. And your last line is perfect.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@Mino: They’re especially budget busters with the lawsuits their abuses spawn. Look at Corrections Corporation of America alone. Private prisons are breeding grounds for abuses that would not be out of place in a 1970s exploitation film. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the prison industrial complex, and let me say how fucked up its name and existence are, is horrified by the abuses that are routine in those facilities. Fuck the future depicted in RoboCop; the reality is even worse.
@The Red Pen:
It’s essentially a political battle between the people who want to be ruled by the Church and people who want to be
ruled by a system offeudal lords.
Yes. Even better.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@Botsplainer: I voted for Stein, but that was funny! President Obama is not running for reelection, and the next House election is more than a year away. Unless you’re talking about natural disasters, nothing happens in August in non-election years, and that’s why it’s happening now. This won’t hurt the prospects in the House, and it certainly won’t jeopardize the Senate majority, for what little that majority has been worth.
I would like to take this opportunity to say FUCK HARRY REID! He should have killed the fucking filibuster. The House had the filibuster, and they’ve functioned well without it for the majority of this country’s existence. His excuses, I won’t call them “reasons”, all revolve around “tradition.” Yeah, it was also “tradition” to perform trephination and exorcisms to “treat” epilepsy. It was “tradition” to perform bloodletting and use leaches to “treat” headaches, liver problems, and fevers. With the Teahadists in full bloom, the continued existence of the filibuster is equally harmful to the body politic. If they want a tradition, they can keep their Senate bean soup. It’s delicious, and the recipe is on their website. Leave tradition for things that are either harmless or positive. The filibuster is neither.
@Ben Cisco: I think the next person will be pilloried from the would-be left too, because that’s what the would-be left does: express disillusionment, regret, and betrayal. Because if they were happy in any lasting way it would mean that they had been co-opted by Corporate Power and AmeriKKKan Empire.
@I Heart Breitbartbees: It’s not clear to me that Reid is himself invested in anything like “tradition,” or whether he has a bunch of self-important people in his caucus who use “tradition” as a cover for enjoying their own perks, including filibustering, and has to speak for them as well as the reformers. Maybe both.
@Chris: You do realize that I have read no important opinion leader who thinks in those term. By and large, this is just a discussion ending attempt at an ad hominen used by folks (in this case Rhodes and ‘splainer) who very seldom cite examples.
Make no mistake, in a population of 360,000,000 there are some, but they are textbook examples of what an outlier is. So why waste time referring to them?
Some of the anger that comes from emo progressives tends to be of the why hasn’t the President fixed this for us yet variety. We have made some advances in many states dealing with decriminalization and sentencing so the President can now build on this. It is really immature to expect a President to be a benevolent father who will fix all the things. We have to work on the issues we care about.
As to why he didn’t do this in the first term–it is pretty simple. There would be no second term and President Romney would undo it in a flash.
There is a basic rule in progressive politics–you have to win first!
The Red Pen
Yes. The people who want Church rule assume that once the theocracy is in place, every corner of America will be run according to the tenets of the East Dickstump Bible Fellowship. This means they will have power and they will not end up burning at the stake at the hands of those apostates at the First Baptist Church of West Dickstump.
The Libertarians figure that once they have been freed from the tyranny of taxes and… laws… they will move out of the 3-bedroom ranch-style house into Downton Abby where they will lord over a village of “takers” who will be glad to work 10 hours a day in the plastic turtle factory for a bowl of rice (once their SNAP benefits dry up). They certainly won’t end up in the factory because they are already a shift manager at WalMart and, therefore, a “maker.”
You mean union busting Michael Moore? Never understood why Michael Moore gets a pass when he does right wing things.
There is a chance that new bills that reform drug sentencing laws can pass since many have support on the right and the left. The Fair Sentencing Act which passed back in 2010 had support from even people like Jeff Sessions.
I think the President and the Attorney General are signaling that the War on Drugs is eventually coming to a close.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@FlipYrWhig: And if he were a better majority leader, he could have overcome that. DeLay was corrupt as hell, but at least he could lead.
Mike in NC
Easy: a secret meeting of America-hating dictators will appoint Obummer to head the United Nations, and he’ll finally get to impose Sharia law, confiscate our guns, and offer a free white woman to any foreign person of color.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@Jeremy: Several states, including New York, engaged in symbolic legalization efforts for alcohol during Prohibition, and that paved the way for its repeal. If you want a signal that the War on Drugs may be ending, look to California, Oregon, and Colorado, not the world’s most famous street address. I’m not faulting Obama or Holder for this. However, they may not have had the political cover to do this until now.
@I Heart Breitbartbees: @I Heart Breitbartbees: True ! But the president said after his re-election that one item he might tackle is criminal justice reform. This shift in policy which began early this year is a big deal.
The Moar You Know
Just in time to get a whole bunch of Obama voters out and voting in 2014!
@The Red Pen:
Jeebus, I just had to click it:
Holy fucking shit.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@The Red Pen: I’m so sorry I clicked that link. I try to avoid wingnuts for health reasons. Not good for the blood pressure, and I’m not particularly anxious to be shot by one of those dangerous lunatics.
Seriously, if America were as rife with tyranny as these Red Dawn fetishists believe, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity would have been “disappeared” years ago. Their very freedom, and that of their lunatic friends and sheeple, is a continued testament their nightmare is a lie. Even when I was a conservative, I wasn’t that fucking stupid.
@Jack the Second:
This, pretty much. Good outcome, bad process.
The Sevtencing Guidelines are FUBAR. Fix them.
One more reason to stay engaged and active for the midterm elections.
@I Heart Breitbartbees:
Hey, they got Breitbart, didn’t they? Preparing those genetically-keyed heart-attack toxins takes time.
The Red Pen
@gnomedad: I thought about quoting that one, but it’s really pretty run-of-the-mill wingnut butthurt. When wingnuts feel empowered, they are bullies. When they feel vulnerable, they are martyrs. It’s all part of the Wingnut Wurlitzer greatest hits.
@I Heart Breitbartbees:
Yeah, once upon a time, “conservative” denoted a set of values that were applied to facts to generate conclusions. At some point in the last 40 years, some “conservatives” decided that when the facts lead them to conclusions they didn’t like, the facts themselves had an agenda and should be opposed. I think that’s why the Democrats have shifted right — they’ve become a new home for reality-based conservatives.
A Humble Lurker
I wouldn’t have wanted my President to be a Fox news contributor anyway.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@gnomedad: Nah, he was an overweight bastard who didn’t exercise and had a diet for shit, as well as other contributing risk factors. He’s not the first or the youngest I’ve seen that happen to. He’s just the only one whose life, not death, I mourned. I don’t know how Limbaugh has survived with his Viagara and cigar cocktails. One would think there was something phallic about everything that colossal dick does…
Yay Holder. More of this please!
I just read the tragic story of the guy in TN who had been clean for years and was a stay at home dad family man, helped his widowed elderly neighbor clean out her attic, ended up with some shotgun shells among the junk in his possession, got arrested on suspicion of something he didn’t do, and get sent by the US Attorney to 15 years Federal prison for felony possession of ammunition by an ex-con. The judge had no leeway, it was mandatory minimum sentence.
We need to end the fucking drug war, otherwise known as the war on black and brown and poor people, and relax these insane minimum sentencing rules. And also peel back the surveillance state and paramilitary police tactics that came out of this insane drug war. I’m glad Holder and Obama are doing this. More, please.
@The Red Pen: Their reality lapped our satire back in like 2005 or so.
Since this is clearly coming from Obama (everyone who believes Eric Holder came up with this completely on his own and didn’t run it by the president of the united states before scheduling this press conference, please raise your hands), it bodes ill.
As we know, whenever Obama promises something, he ends up doing the exact opposite. So this latest announcement means that the Obama justice department is preparing to implement savage increases in mandatory sentencing for even the most minor drug infractions.
Bad news all around.
Presumably that’s why Holder and Obama have prepared those FEMA concentration camps. And once Holder begins the mass liquidation of white males, Obama will take all the white women for the secret harem he keeps in that giant underground grotto beneath the White House, where Obama plots to set up a moslem caliphate throughout the U.S.
Whoi got screwed? There are two ways to approach that and both end up with mostly minorities. I’d start by saying the poor, because we have a justice system designed for people with money. On top of that, of course, minorities are disproportionately poor, and throw in a racist judge here and there (and here and there and here…) and the injustice is simply compounded. Our experience now should tell us that the way to get rid of racism (or classism) in our justice system is not by imposing draconian mandatory minimum sentences. At the best, you end up with equal injustice for all. (But of course, we never come near the best.)
A valid point and one reason why I wrote “American” and didn’t try to lay it all on Obama, whose record in this regard is, so far, lamentable, but not completely incomprehensible. With all the absurd opposition (much of it racist) to Obama, trying to get rid of the War on Drugs immediately upon taking office would have likely caused tremendous blowback. On the other hand, his administration does seem to have pursued the War on Drugs with a bit more enthusiasm than was necessary if his long term goal was to abandon it. If, by the end of his second term, the War on Drugs is a bad memory, then he’ll deserve credit, but probably less credit than would have been due had he not moved so slowly, or alternatively, had he not seemed so dedicated early on. Obama has shown he’s a slow poke — sometimes that’s good, sometimes bad, and sometimes just necessary. I’m hoping he’ll have done away with the War on Drugs completely by the end of his 2nd term. If so, it will be a great, if belated, accomplishment.
The privatization of our prisons, like much of our ill-conceived privatization efforts, was and is a terrible idea. We’ve created a new, powerful, and now entrenced prison-industrial complex. Another “obs program” that will be hard to get rid of.
All three of the responses to my original comment are very worthwhile. The War on Drugs is just one very ugly aspect of our so-called justice system. It needs so much work, it’s hard to know where to begin.