Attorney General Eric Holder Urges Congress to Pass Bipartisan 'Smarter Sentencing Act' to Reform Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Washington, DC - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Mike Lee. A copy of the Attorney General's statement, which was recorded as an online video, appears below:

“Our criminal justice system works only when all Americans are treated equally under the law. 

That’s why, in 2010, Congress passed the landmark Fair Sentencing Act, marking the culmination of persistent efforts – with the leadership of President Obama – to reduce unjust disparities in sentencing for similar offenses involving different types of drugs.

More recently, President Obama took another step by commuting the sentences of eight individuals who were sentenced under the outdated sentencing regime. 

And at the Justice Department, we’ve announced additional reforms – under our “Smart on Crime” initiative – to ensure that individuals accused of certain low-level federal drug crimes no longer face excessive mandatory minimum sentences that are out of proportion with their alleged conduct – and serve no deterrent purpose.

These reforms have the potential to help make our criminal justice system not only fairer, but also – by reducing the burden on our overcrowded prison system – more efficient. 

And now, we have the opportunity for leaders from both parties to come together to do even more.

Today, I’m urging Congress to pass common-sense reforms like the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Mike Lee – which would give judges more discretion in determining appropriate sentences for people convicted of certain federal drug crimes.

 This bill would also provide a new mechanism for some individuals – who were sentenced under outdated laws and guidelines – to petition judges for sentencing reductions that are consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act.

Thanks to the leadership of Senators Durbin and Lee – along with Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senator Rand Paul – it’s clear that these and similar proposals enjoy bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. 

These reforms would advance the goals of the Smart on Crime initiative – and other efforts that are currently underway – by fundamentally improving policies that exacerbate, rather than alleviate, key criminal justice challenges.

And such legislation could ultimately save our country billions of dollars in prison costs while keeping us safe.

I look forward to working with members of both parties to refine and advance these proposals in the days ahead. 

And I pledge my own best efforts – and those of my colleagues throughout the Justice Department – to continue to strengthen America’s criminal justice system, and to build the more just society that everyone in this country deserves.”

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