Call to Action
12 August 2013
General Eric Holder announced changes to Department of Justice
(DOJ) policy with regard to prosecutions and sentencing, as well as
other reforms to the criminal justice system.
Eric Holder called for 'sweeping, systemic changes' to the
American judicial system on Monday, urging 'a frank and
constructive dialogue about the need to reform a broken system.'
As part of that effort, the
Justice Department will no longer list drug quantities in
indictments of certain low-level drug offenders, allowing
defendants who lack ties to gangs, violence and large-scale drug
trafficking organizations to avoid harsh mandatory minimums,
Holder announced during the Monday speech before the American
Bar Association...Holder outlined other reforms as part of his
new 'Smart on Crime' plan during the speech, including allowing
for the early release of non-violent elderly federal defendants
who had served significant portions of their sentences, thereby
helping to reduce the overall federal prison population. He also
called for greater use of incarceration alternatives and renewed
focus on prevention, pointing out reforms in typically
conservative states that have steered funding towards treatment
and supervision, rather than funneling more money into prisons.
Write to Attorney
General Eric Holder at U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the
Attorney General, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
20530-0001. You may also send an e-mail message to
Please mention that your message is for the attention of
Attorney General Eric Holder. Or call the Office of the Attorney
General Public Comment Line: 202-353-1555.
General Eric Holder for his efforts to end the draconian minimum
mandatory sentences that have created an explosion of the prison
population in the United States.
intention to release older prisoners who pose no threat to our
International believes that, "while there is no parole in the
federal system, the federal government can save taxpayer money
by revamping its elderly release program in such a way to allow
for early release of aging prisoners who pose no substantial
public safety threat; for instance, by encouraging the BOP to
expand the use or scope of its compassionate release policy."
In the midst of
budget woes, the fact is that
release of aged federal prisoners on home confinement would be
far less expensive than their current confinement. And
Leonard Peltier has repeatedly expressed his willingness to
accept home confinement.
Holder, in part,
used the cost of confinement as the rationale for releasing
elderly prisoners. AI makes
the following argument: "The BOP's current policy of placing
eligible elderly offenders on home detention until the end of
their prison terms... is needlessly expensive
in that these elderly prisoners are kept within the corrections
system, at great expense to the American taxpayer, for the
entirety of their imposed sentence. AI argues that "it makes
much more sense from a fiscal cost perspective to allow elderly
inmates to apply for early release than it does to transfer them
to some kind of secured nursing home facility until the end of
their prison terms. At $34.86 to $47.76 per day, this sort of
detention is a very expensive option that the data suggest is
simply not warranted."
AI's idea is one
worth backing as, in Leonard's case, it would mean unconditional
power to commute sentences is every bit as important as the
power to grant pardons. This takes more courage because where
granting a pardon usually involves a person who has served his
or her time, someone who has otherwise lived an exemplary life,
someone who only wants to put the bad old life behind and remove
the legal burdens of a felony conviction—commuting
a sentence necessarily involves reducing a punishment, giving a
lighter sentence to someone who has been convicted of a crime
and is currently serving a prison term. This is not easy for a
sitting politician to do. But everyone who is familiar with the
it is Chief Justice Rehnquist or your local magistrate—everyone
familiar with the system knows that there is a crying need for a
more pervasive, more thoughtful, more robust exercise of the
power to commute sentences by the Chief Executive. We need more
strength, more courage, more action.—Greg
Craig, former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama
Holder look into clemency reform, as well.
were established to
to sentencing, there should
clemency whether it be commutations or pardons.
Make the point to Holder that the clemency process should be
removed from the DOJ, too.
There is, in DOJ,
the place and
prosecutors are not
in the exercise
Federal Innocence Commission
Last, recommend to
Holder that he acknowledge the incidence of wrongful conviction,
even within the federal system. Urge him to consider
establishing an Innocence Commission at the federal level, one
that will consider factors other than DNA evidence (which is the
focus of many existing Commissions). Suggest to Holder
that he might consider the North Carolina model.
Thank you for
everything you do on behalf of Leonard Peltier.