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Excessive incarceration dealt blow by US Attorney General

While criminal activity has always been associated with a subsequent jail sentence, these terms in prison can vary wildly depending on the case. When it comes to drug crimes, the sentencing protocols can heap many extra years behind bars on an accused person, even if the person’s alleged crimes or actions don’t necessarily warrant such a lengthy period in jail. This is, in part, due to mandatory minimum sentencing standards, which “force” the courts to apply jail time that is not on par with the circumstances of the accused individual’s crime. Usually, the minimum jail time that people get because of these standards is far more harsh than the crimes they are accused of. This phenomenon is called “excessive incarceration,” and it has been a hot topic in the criminal defense world for some time. Recently, though, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made an important announcement regarding jail sentences and the “War on Drugs:” only sentences that are “better suited to [the accused person’s] individual conduct” will be applied. Holder’s announcement is specifically targeting excessive incarcerations, which do more harm than good to both the jailed person and society as a whole. Whether Holder’s sentiments are actually applied in practice remains to be seen. There could still be prosecutors out there who throw the book at accused drug criminals, or use their cases to make an example out of lower-level offenders in an attempt to bolster their personal profiles. But, the recognition that excessive incarceration is a blight on the criminal justice system is a good step. People accused of crimes have civil and human rights too, and they need to be upheld and protected. Source: ABA Journal, “Sweeping reversal of the War on Drugs announced by Atty General Holder,” Terry Carter, Aug. 12, 2013

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