Holder touts benefits of changes in mandatory minimum sentences
November 5th, 2013
01:41 PM ET
10 months ago

Holder touts benefits of changes in mandatory minimum sentences

Philadelphia (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder visited a federal court program for former criminal offenders to highlight the Justice Department efforts to change mandatory minimum sentences and other rigid federal rules.

Holder sat in court Tuesday as a group of men who have been released from prison in the past few months gave reports on efforts to find jobs, places to live and reunite with their families.

Each stepped before Judge Felipe Restrepo congratulated a few on milestones – new or second job, marriage, reuniting with children – and encouraged others to work to put their criminal past behind them.

Holder has ordered changes in how prosecutors pursue charged against non-violent drug offenders, seeking alternatives to prison where possible. He also is behind a push for more use of rehabilitative programs that aim to keep prisoners from re-offending and going back to prison.

The Philadelphia court helps oversee a federally-funded program called Star, or Supervision To Aid Re-entry.

The court hearing was at turns inspiring and humorous, with some ex-prisoners telling of obstacles they're trying to overcome to keep jobs and their families.

One participant in the program told the judge he was exhausted from working two jobs, in shifts from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and then from 7:30 a.m. to noon. He spoke of working "to be better."

Joseph Young, 34, served 5 1/2 years at the federal prison in Fort Dix, NJ, for aiding and abetting cocaine distribution.

He was a success story that Judge Restrepo said he was particularly proud of.

Young saw an emergency medical service van in traffic, took down the phone number and called to ask for a job.

Months later he is an EMT, wearing his uniform proudly in court.

He told Judge Restrepo he considered him "more than a friend, you're family to me," because the judge helped him reunite with his children.

He told other ex-offenders in court the he sold drugs on street corners, then urged them to try harder. "Don't think they just because we got records that we can't do anything. If they say no, ask why," he said.

Holder discarded his prepared remarks and told the court that he was inspired by men.

"We're not fundamentally different," Holder told the ex-offenders, recalling how he grew up with friends on Queens, NY, who got into trouble later in life. He reminded he men that "You have a responsibility to the next generation."


Filed under: Eric Holder
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    How about we start by decriminalizing marijuana?

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. much thunder..little rain

    how low the bar has drop..proud on this ...my how times have change .. my parents were proud when i went to college ..not because i never went to jail

    November 5, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    "Don't think they just because we got records that we can't do anything. If they say no, ask why," he said.
    ------------------------------------
    When they say get off public assistance and go find a job, ask how.

    November 5, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. smith

    @Rudy- use your two feet to walk to place that is hiring..then use your hands and your brain to fill out an application. Repeat the process until somebody hires you. Its not easy but you have to try.

    November 5, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "When they say get off public assistance and go find a job, ask how."

    But that's just the point, ain't it? Mandatory sentencing was designed from the get-go as a screwjob to keep the growing population of minorities from voting via felony convictions and from getting jobs and competing as well for jobs and education enrollment against suburban white 'Murika.

    Fact: Drug use/abuse in the inner cities and suburbia are at equal prevalence levels in most areas, particularly when it comes to marijuana. Yes, your precious white children are running around smoking dope just as much as those inner city kids. So is your doctor or lawyer or banker or broker, etc.

    Fact: Prosecution (read "persecution") of use/abuse and related activities is far higher, far more stringent, and supplied with far more police and other professionals who focus on the issue and go hunting for it.

    Fact: Sentencing is by far worse for inner city offenders, who are far less frequently given "free pass" and "second chance" treatment like little Johnny in suburbia who gets off scot-free for smoking his first joint on school grounds because his parents, the police and the prosecutors don't want to "ruin his life." Ruining inner city lives, on the other hand, is how you prove you're "tough on crime."

    November 5, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Oops edit:

    Fact: Prosecution (read "persecution") of use/abuse and related activities IN INNER CITIES is far higher, far more stringent, and supplied with far more police and other professionals who focus on the issue and go hunting for it than in SUBURBIA.

    November 5, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy- use your two feet to walk to place that is hiring..then use your hands and your brain to fill out an application. Repeat the process until somebody hires you. Its not easy but you have to try.
    -------------------------------
    I guess that whole point, which is people don't hire convicted felons, went right over your head. Didn't it?

    "Nice try, but you gotcha self."

    November 5, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |