A couple of my blogging buddies are extremely excited about two developments this week .  First, they love Eric Holder’s address to the American Bar Association in which he signaled a new, more sane approach to the sentencing of low level drug offenders after decades of draconian mandatory minimums that caused the US prison population to grow by 800% while the population grew by 35% (that’s since 1980).  The second is the ruling by a New York Federal Judge declaring major portions of the stop-and-frisk policy of the New York police unconstitutional.

David Elden writes about it here:

More than a generation ago, amidst an epidemic of crack and attendant crime, get-tough-on-crime laws and policies were introduced and one outcome was an 800% increase in prison populations in the United States.  Today the crack wave has passed, and violent crime is greatly reduced and, in many cases, at an all time low.  Against this background, analysts are looking at two  two separate events on Monday that seem to possibly signal a sea change in government attitudes towards crime. The first was Eric Holder’s speech before the American Bar Association in which he called for a relaxation of the draconian mandatory sentencing regime that has resulted in the U.S., with 5% of the word’s population, accounting for 25% of the world’s prisoners. The second was a decision by a federal judge in New York that challenges the longstanding stop-and-frisk policy of the New York Police Department.

And Patrick more writes about it here: 

On August 12, we saw a brief flicker of sanity in the American criminal justice system. First, we had U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that federal prosecutors would no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Then, we learned that a judge from the Federal District Court in Manhattan has rejected New York City’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy on constitutional grounds. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the program has violated the civil rights of thousands of citizens, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms to the program.

Recent trends in law enforcement have been so deeply problematic at both the federal and local levels that many of us have despaired of ever seeing any kind of large-scale reform take place. However, the recent news from New York, and the speech given by the Attorney General, indicate that progress is more likely to be achieved in a series of small waves, rather than in a single tsunami of sweeping change.


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