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Timely Idea? Holder To Pitch Changes To Drug Enforcement

The sun sets behind a guard tower at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Shorter prison sentences for nonviolent criminals, more programs to treat those convicted of low-level drug-related crimes and reductions in the number of crimes that carry "mandatory minimum sentences." Those are among the things Attorney General Eric Holder will suggest Monday when he addresses the American Bar Association in San Francisco.

NPR's Carrie Johnson previewed Holder's address for Morning Edition last Wednesday. Monday, The Associated Press added some more details about what he's planning to say -- based on his remarks "as prepared for delivery." The wire service writes that:

-- Holder will say he's changing Justice Department policy "so that low-level, non-violent drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels won't be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences."

-- The attorney general will tell the ABA that mandatory minimum sentences "breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive."

The Los Angeles Times adds that Holder is expected to say that "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason. ... While the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation."

Earlier this year, as Carrie reported, Holder told NPR that:

-- "The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old. ... There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There's been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color."

-- "We can certainly change our enforcement priorities."

Note: That's a question, not a scientific survey of public opinion.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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