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Mandatory minimums deserve another debate

Americans tire of the war on drugs, which is now in its 40th year. A Gallup poll showed only 31 percent of Americans think we made any progress in the last year.

The nation should review its tactics in reducing drug abuse. The thousands of young men killed in drug-related gang wars fills the graveyards and the prisons as killers are brought to justice.

Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign in the 1980s helped, while prosecution of minor offenders does not.

However, rather than lead a discussion on this war, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has taken it upon himself to end the mandatory minimum sentences that Congress enacted in response to overly lenient judges.

"Even though this country comprises just 5 percent of the world's population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world's prisoners," Holder said this week.

"More than 219,000 federal inmates are currently behind bars."

What Holder left out of the equation is how bad the nation's drug problems are compared to other nations.

Nevertheless, Holder made good points that conservatives share. Alternative sentencing makes sense.

Requiring prescriptions to buy Sudafed does not.

But the attorney general made a mistake typical of this administration. Rather than work with Congress to change the law, Holder is telling prosecutors not to properly charge criminals so as to avoid mandatory minimum sentences.

Not only is that an evasion of the law, it may in some cases violate the law.

"What he's done now, what he's proposed with these drug laws is worse than just suspending the parts of the law, and instructing prosecutors not to prosecute," columnist Charles Krauthammer said.

"He also is telling prosecutors who already have prosecutions in place that they can withhold evidence so that the defendant won't get a maximum or a mandatory penalty," Krauthammer said.

Instead of sneaking around Congress, Holder should work with lawmakers to change the law. That way, a successor cannot reverse this policy.



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