Eric Holder Credits 6% Drop in Drug Prosecutions to His Sentencing Policies

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that his policy of leniency for non-violent and low-level drug users caused federal drug prosecutions to drop 6 percent last year, which he called a good sign of reform for the nation’s criminal judicial system.

“For years prior to this administration, federal prosecutors were not only encouraged — but required — to always seek the most severe prison sentence possible for all drug cases, no matter the relative risk they posed to public safety,” Mr. Holder said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

Mr. Holder, set to step down soon as leader of the Justice Department, has taken up sentencing reform as one of his legacies while in office. In 2013, he launched the “Smart on Crime” initiative, which gave judges and prosecutors more discretion in punishing drug cases. Much of the focus has centered on “mandatory minimums” — prison sentences that courts are required to hand out to drug offenders, no matter the severity of the offense.

Prison reform advocates have argued the mandatory minimums have led to disproportionate sentences.