Justice Department Announces 6 Percent Drop in Federal Drug Trafficking Prosecutions

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to announce Tuesday that during the past year there was a 6 percent decrease in the number of federal drug trafficking prosecutions. The Associated Press reports prosecutors sought mandatory minimum sentences in 51 percent of cases, down from 64 percent the previous year.

In August 2013, the Justice Department introduced an initiative, “Smart on Crime,” that directed prosecutors to avoid charging non-violent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, the article notes. These sentences are generally long and are dictated by the quantity of drugs involved in the case.

The initiative encouraged federal prosecutors to consider diverting more non-violent drug offenders away from prison and into treatment. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of federal drug prosecutions decreased from 22,215 to 20,824.

According to Holder’s prepared remarks, he will say new U.S. Sentencing Commission data indicates that prosecutors are generally following the policy. “It is having a real and measurable impact on the decisions made by federal prosecutors from coast to coast,” he notes in the remarks. “The changes we’ve implemented are firmly taking hold. And our key reforms appear to be successful by every measure we’ve seen so far.”

Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises federal judges, reduced prison sentences for most federal drug trafficking offenders and applied the changes retroactively.

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