AG Holder Endorses Most of SAM’s Recommendations for Drug Offenders, Announces Support for Alternatives to Incarceration Like Re-Entry, Justice Reinvestment, Treatment
At a speech in front of the American Bar Association, Attorney General Holder introduces support for “Smart On Crime” initiatives that do not rely on incarceration – or legalization – to beat back drug-related crime.
August 12, 2013 – Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), a national alliance calling for smart marijuana policies grounded in neither incarceration nor legalization, applauded the Attorney General today as he announced a major “Smart on Crime” initiative during a speech at the American Bar Association in San Francisco.
“With his speech today, the AG proved that legalization is not the definition of drug policy reform,” remarked SAM Director, former White House drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet. “We can make our drug policies better by focusing our resources on violent offenders and offering treatment and other diversionary programs for drug-offenders.”
SAM noted that although most nonviolent drug offenders are convicted on the state, rather than federal, level, the AG’s comments can be looked upon as support for states that want to reduce their prison populations. Additionally, this is an opportunity to expand pre-trial drug courts, as discussed at length in a March New York Times article, “Outside Box, Federal Judges Offer Addicts a Free Path.” In that case, a prosecutor vacated a 29-year-old woman’s guilty plea of drug distribution and agreed to dismiss the charges if the woman did not use drugs or get arrested for 18 months. The woman began smoking marijuana, and later snorting cocaine, at a young age and was prosecuted for transporting drugs to the U.S. from her native Guyana. As part of the deal, the woman later took parenting courses, earned a general equivalency diploma and got a commercial bus driver’s license. She remains crime-free today.
“As a Federal judge who has presided over Drug Court at both the state and federal level, I applaud today’s announcement by the Attorney General. For over two decades Drug Courts have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that we can cut crime, cut substance abuse and save money by placing non-violent, non-drug dealing, seriously addicted offenders in treatment instead of prison,” commented District Judge Keith Starrett, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi who also serves as the Chair of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). “As we have demonstrated in Mississippi, the Drug Court model can be applied in the federal system to ensure that federally charged offenders have the same opportunity to receive treatment and avoid incarceration. The initiatives outlined today open the door for Federal courts to further implement evidence-based practices and other alternatives, such as Drug Courts.”
“Programs like drug courts, HOPE probation, and other related alternatives to incarceration both reduce crime and our reliance on prison – resulting in a net benefit for society,” remarked Sabet. “These drug policy reforms should be implemented on a wider scale today if we really want to see results.”
Project SAM is a bipartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists, and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic dichotomies of “incarceration versus legalization” and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalize drugs. SAM was co-founded by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. Former George W. Bush Speechwriter, Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist David Frum, Harvard Professor Sharon Levy, Denver Health’s Chris Thurstone, University of Kansas tobacco cessation specialist Kimber Richter, and former Obama and Bush advisor Kevin Sabet also serve on the board of SAM. SAM focuses on a “third way” approach to marijuana, and works with state partners to reach the local level.
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