Local judges and law enforcement are reacting to a proposal that would result in shorter prison sentences for certain non-violent drug traffickers.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission that the move would lower federal prison costs and create a fairer criminal justice system.
"By reserving the most severe penalties for dangerous and violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation while saving billions of dollars and strengthening communities," Holder testified.
Reducing penalties for non-violent drug offenders may help ease prison overcrowding, but as FOX19's Gordon Graham tells us, reaction to the justice department's new initiative varies depending on who you ask.
"The public is being sold a bill of goods," said Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders, who doesn't think lowering penalties is such a good idea. Sanders relayed that he takes a dim view of what the justice department wants to do with prison sentences.
"I don't know if the Obama administration or attorney general Holder have noticed, but we have quite a bit a heroin problem going on in greater Cincinnati and especially here in Northern Kentucky. The last thing we need is to be cutting penalties on drug offenders."
Campbell County District judge Karen Thomas agrees.
"There are certain types of drugs, in particular heroin and meth, that are so instantly addictive and in such small quantities it doesn't take much for somebody to get addicted to those drugs that even those small level traffickers become folks that are deadly to our society and I think you have to cut off those routes," Judge Thomas explained.
However, FOX19 legal analyst, Mike Allen, has a different view.
"I think it's a good idea. It's an attempt and I think one that will work that will drive the federal prison population down because the federal bureau of prisons is bursting at the seams," said Allen, who believes tough sentences may be well intentioned, but they're too expensive.
"At the end of the day the taxpayers have to fund these prisons and Congress has to come up with money and if the money's not there and if the prisons are bursting at the seams something has to give."
FOX19 also talked with several area law enforcement agencies and they say that with the current heroin epidemic, reducing sentences sends the wrong message and that perhaps the justice department needs to find a better way to reduce prison overcrowding.
Click here to see the full graphic of Understanding Basic Federal Drug Case Sentencing.
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