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AG Holder tries to correct drug sentencing disparity

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 6/8/2011, 9:34 a.m.

While many at the hearing supported Holder’s position, David Hiller, national vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, voiced his disagreement. “The FOP strongly opposes any retroactive application of the guidelines as it would allow for the release of thousands of convicted drug offenders into communities where state and local law enforcement are already under immense pressure,” he said. “These criminals are responsible for creating and feeding the addiction of an estimated 1.4 million Americans. Early release of these criminals would serve only to further the destruction of our communities from cocaine.”

The NAACP later commended the attorney general’s remarks. “The retroactive application of these guidelines would go a long way in reversing the inequity created in the prison system when judges did not have the discretion to mitigate sentencing for first-time offenders, nonviolent offenders, or special circumstances,” said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program.

The United States Sentencing Commission is expected to rule on this measure in the upcoming months. If passed, it would then move to Congress.

The prison population of the United States now exceeds 2 million, and represents the highest incarceration rate in the world. Before the War on Drugs commenced in the 1980s, it stood at just 300,000 and drug convictions account for the majority of the increase.