In Missouri and states throughout the nation, explosions in jail and prison
populations have led to serious overcrowding, overtaxed resources, and
numerous ethical questions about the ways in which the American criminal
justice system operates. In recent years, overcrowded prisons have become
one of the most prominent concerns, and have prompted many jurisdictions
across the country to adopt different stances on drug crimes. The chosen
trend – and one now vehemently supported by federal prosecutors
– is one that focuses on fair sentencing and rehabilitation for
certain drug crime offenders, rather than harsh punishment alone.
On Monday, August 12, Attorney General Eric Holder called for major changes
to the nation's criminal justice system. At its core, his speech focused
on reducing prison populations and fixing a broken system that continually
"convicts, warehouses, and forgets." In particular, this new
call for change focuses on non-violent drug offenders and issues that include:
Scaling back the use of severe prison sentences for certain types of
- Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenders;
- Diversion programs that defer individuals convicted of low level offenses
to drug treatment and community service programs;
- Allowing for the release of certain elderly, non-violent offenders.
Most significantly, Holder's speech highlighted the shortcomings of
the American criminal justice system, especially in regard to how inefficient
and ineffective many of the current policies relating to drug crimes have
been. For one, harsh policies and mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent
drug offenders – which were adopted during the birth of America's
War on Drugs in the 1980s – have proven to be one of the primary
factors behind our nation's overcrowded prison system. Additionally,
many studies have found such harsh sentencing guidelines to be a large
factor behind high rates of recidivism, or as Holder calls it, "a
vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration."
Holder went on to cite a number of eye-opening statistics, including the
fact that rising prison rates have impacted the federal prison population
the most – with an astonishing 800% increase since 1980. In addition,
he mentioned that although America accounts for only 5% of the world's
population, our country incarcerates nearly a quarter of the world's
prisoners. If current trends are any indication of how our nation will
respond to these calls for change, then there is a strong possibility
that change will come. States such as Texas and New York, for example,
have already enacted more rehabilitative-focused policies in drug crime
cases. There and in several other states, these strategies are working
and are gaining bipartisan support.
Charged with a drug crime in St. Louis, Missouri?
While there still remains much to do before federal changes are enacted
throughout the nation, individuals accused of a drug crime in St. Louis
or any of the surrounding communities of Missouri should be aware that
they do not have to plead guilty to their charges. By working with experienced
and passionate St. Louis drug crime attorneys from The Hammer Law Firm,
LLC, individuals charged with a drug crime can gain the support and the
representation needed to fight back against their charges.
Although defense plans are tailored specifically to the unique circumstances
at hand – especially in relation to the charge involved and a person's
criminal history – certain, non-violent drug offenders may also
have the opportunity to pursue alternatives to incarceration, including
options such as drug treatment programs or community service. If you,
your loved one, or someone you care about has recently been charged with
any type of drug crime, allow a member of our legal team to review your
case, inform you of your available options, and explain precisely what
we can to do help. Learn more about your case by
contacting a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer from The Hammer Law Firm, LLC today.