Federal drug laws may undergo a positive change, Seattle Times reports. The Justice Department is embracing new efforts to work on criminal justice reform when it comes to non-violent drug crimes. The report also notes that the number of federal drug prosecutions has gone down, while the cases that are involved are more serious offenses. It goes on to say that less than half of all federal drug cases from 2015 involved charges with mandatory minimum sentencing, meaning that there were fewer prosecutions of cases involving drug quantity or possession, as these are the types of cases that often correlate with mandatory minimum sentencing. The news report claims this shift is a result of the Justice Department's "Smart on Crime" initiative, an effort put forward by former Attorney General Eric Holder to try to cut down on prosecutions for non-violent drug offenses while simultaneously reducing prison spending.
Smart On Crime
The Smart on Crime initiative is dedicated to deterrence, efficiency and fairness in the prosecution of drug crimes. The initiative began in 2013 and focused heavily on an internal review of the actual criminal drug laws themselves to ensure that prosecution received fair reforms. The program outlined five goals:
- To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities;
- To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system
- To ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent convictions
- To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism
- To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations"
Smart on Crime seeks to both cut federal spending on prisons and divert the excess to the actual law enforcement, while simultaneously promoting equality and fairness when it comes to non-violent crimes. In essence, the plan itself is an effort to stop harassing non-violent offenders with bogus possession or recreational use criminal charges, and instead, go after ring-leaders and violent offenders for more serious sentencing.
Reports listed in the new report showed a drop in drug cases by 6%, and a decrease by 5,000 total cases between 2012 and 2015. While total drug cases fell, there was a spike in the number of defendants who were considered to have leading roles or were armed. The report claims that this indicates a narrowed focus onto more dangerous suspects, and less harshness for non-violent drug crimes.
Unfortunately for Washington State drug offenders, the Smart on Crime initiative is currently only operating at the national and federal levels. If you are facing non-marijuana drug charges in Washington State, you will be met with the usual draconian VUCSA laws that govern the state's drug policies. With an effort like this finding some success on a federal level, perhaps there may be changes in the future for this state as well.