Baltimore Sun; August 12, 2013
In a sign of growing disenchantment with the war on drugs, conservatives joined Democrats and reform advocates Monday in praising Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s declaration that it was time to rethink get-tough policies that have tied the hands of judges and swollen the populations of federal prisons.
The nation's top law enforcement officer, decrying the "moral and human costs" of mass incarceration, said he would instruct federal prosecutors to change the way they charge some drug offenders to avoid triggering "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws that have significantly boosted sentences.
The federal prison population has exploded, even as populations in state prisons have declined steadily.
"The course we are on is far from sustainable," Holder said, speaking to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. "As the so-called 'war on drugs' enters its fifth decade, we need to ask whether it, and the approaches that comprise it, have been truly effective."
Holder also said the department would increase efforts to find alternatives to incarceration and to smooth the compassionate release of severely ill prisoners who are no longer a threat to the public.
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