Washington (CNN) -- The Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday, noting the nation is "coldly efficient in jailing criminals," but that it "cannot prosecute or incarcerate" its way to becoming safer.
"Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason," Holder told the American Bar Association's House of Delegates in San Francisco.
He questioned some assumptions about the criminal justice system's approach to the "war on drugs," saying that excessive incarceration has been an "ineffective and unsustainable" part of it.
Although he said the United States should not abandon being tough on crime, Holder embraced steps to address "shameful" racial disparities in sentencing, the budgetary strains of overpopulated prisons and policies for incarceration that punish and rehabilitate, "not merely to warehouse and forget."
Holder invoked President Barack Obama, saying the two had been talking about the issues and agreed to try to "strike a balance" that clears the way for a "pragmatic" and "commonsense" solutions to enhance public safety and the "public good."
The centerpiece of Holder's plan is to scale back prosecution for certain drug offenders -- those with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels. He said they would no longer be charged with offenses that "impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences."
1.) Is this an end run around both the legislature who passed laws and judges who assign sentences?
2.) If a heroin dealer with no violent past elgible? Seems this person is responsible for deaths without violence.
3.) What might be the impact on society with (tens of) thousands of drug dealers back on the street?
4.) Does this 'amnesty' apply to those that deal to children?