Post Date: September 6, 2013
I want to keep this short, sweet, and direct because we have a lot of work to do.
Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced significant changes in the charging practices of federal prosecutors. Perhaps more important, Holder threw the Justice Department’s full weight behind mandatory minimum sentencing reform. It was the first time since I started FAMM that the nation’s top prosecutor called on Congress to adopt shorter, fairer sentences for nonviolent offenders.
In the 24 hours surrounding the attorney general’s speech, my colleagues at FAMM and I were interviewed by NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, CNN, USA Today, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, NPR, and CBS Radio. “What did this new development mean?” the media wanted to know. We all gave the right answer: Mandatory minimums have failed by any objective measure and should be repealed.
I will tell you what I really think is happening: We are winning. We are turning the tide at long last. And when I say “we,” I really mean it: we – you, me, and everyone who has been fighting for common sense reform – are winning.
How do I know? Because four days after Holder’s speech, the U.S. Sentencing Commission agreed with FAMM’s request to consider amending the sentencing guidelines so that all drug sentences would be reduced by two levels. The commissioners said they received 14,000 comments in support of their proposed priorities, including the “drug minus two” reduction. I know many of you took the time to write, and now you know that your voice was heard.
I also want to thank everyone who participated in our “Action August” by contacting your member of Congress and asking him or her to support mandatory minimum reform. We need them to listen like the Commission did.
In September, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on legislative reforms, including the Justice Safety Valve Act. Stay tuned to future messages from FAMM as we are going to ask for your help both before and after the hearing to get our message out. I know we can count on you.
Before I close, I wanted to share something that I found encouraging and a bit funny. The day after Attorney General Holder’s speech, the New York Times editors wrote, “You know a transformational moment has arrived when the attorney general of the United States makes a highly anticipated speech on a politically combustible topic and there is virtually no opposition to be heard.”
On one hand, the editors are right. We clearly have reached a tipping point and I am very encouraged about where we stand today. And, yet, I have to laugh because we certainly did not stumble upon this “transformational moment” by coincidence. It’s taken 22 years of my life, and a lot of your blood, sweat, and tears – mostly tears, I know – to get here. And we’re still not done.
The good news is that we have the ball. We’re on offense and we’re driving down the field. But there’s no celebrating until we get this ball into the end zone.
We can do it.