WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a historic speech delivered today at the annual meeting of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed the long-held idea that mandatory minimums are a necessary tool for prosecutors.
“Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory minimum sentence,” Holder said in his prepared remarks. “[A]ny suggestion that defendant cooperation is somehow dependent on mandatory minimums is plainly inconsistent with the facts and with history.”
Holder’s remarks make him the first attorney general in U.S. history to reject the idea that mandatory minimums are “necessary” to secure cooperation from criminal defendants.
“We applaud Holder for putting research ahead of rhetoric,” said Mary Price, FAMM general counsel. “His statements today reflect what researchers have known awhile now: The certainty of punishment, not the severity, is what matters. That’s why defendants plead guilty to crimes that don’t carry mandatory minimums at the same or even higher rates as people charged with crimes that do carry mandatory minimums.”
Holder also reiterated his support for the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410, H.R. 3382), a bipartisan bill that would provide much-needed reforms to federal sentencing law and save billions of taxpayer dollars. “I’ve called on Congress to expand upon and further institutionalize the changes we’ve put in place,” Holder said, “so we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation while saving billions of dollars and reducing our over-reliance on incarceration.”