Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive last week, instructing all U.S. Attorneys to revisit current drug cases involving low-level, non-violent offenders and waive harsh mandatory sentencing requirements where appropriate.
In doing so, the White House is turning its attention to one issue — criminal justice reform — where Democrats and Republicans have actually found common ground.
Though crime levels have been falling for the last 20 years, incarceration rates and prison costs have sharply increased. It is the states, particularly those under Republican control, that are leading the way here — enacting reforms that have cut incarceration rates and costs and led to significant taxpayer savings.
The United States, which has 5 percent of the global population, houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates. This high U.S. prison population has been primarily driven by non-violent drug offences.
Mandatory minimum sentencing requirements are responsible for much of the drastic growth in per capita inmate costs, which have increased more than 34 percent in just the last 12 years — from $21,603 to $29,027. By comparison, the U.S. economy grew by 24 percent and the population grew by 11.5 percent during that same period.