Push for National Changes in Drug Crime Cases
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 drug crimes;
- 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.