Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Eric Holder on Mass Incarceration

Attorney General Eric H. Holder made some remarkable comments to me recently about the inequities of the American system of justice, and strongly suggested that the Obama administration is finally ready to directly address that more than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S.—25% of all prisoners in the world—and that more than 10,000 non-violent federal inmates sentenced at the height of the drug war are serving sentences far longer than they would receive if convicted under current U.S. law.
  • Holder said there are “probably thousands” of Americans imprisoned in the U.S. serving sentences unjustifiably long sentences.
  • He acknowledged the growing evidence that substantial numbers of people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and called this reality the “ultimate horror” of our justice system. 
  • Most dramatically, the attorney general—the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the U.S.—strongly suggested that a wave of presidential commutations and judicial reviews for non-violent drug offenders may be coming from the White House and federal courts in the months ahead.

“The president is willing to do these kinds of things,” Holder said during a taping of American Forum, a public television program I host from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and carried by about 90 PBS stations around the country. Video:


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