Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday said he has ordered U.S. attorneys to avoid severe mandatory sentences in ongoing prosecutions for low-level drug offenses.
The order expands a recent policy shift at the Justice Department away from severe mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes by making clear that the directive applies retroactively to existing cases that meet certain requirements.
“I am pleased to announce today that the Department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt,” said Holder in remarks before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual criminal justice forum.
“By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety. We can increase our focus on proven strategies for deterrence and rehabilitation.”