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Eric Holder's Plan to Break the Law to Improve It

Eric Holder
Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would pursue an initiative to reform the federal criminal justice system, particularly for low-level drug offenders and other non-violent crimes.

This sounded like great news to longtime conservative advocates of criminal justice reform, who have been urging the federal government to follow the lead of conservative governors and legislators who have shown at the state level that reform, especially when it includes community-based programs using free-market and Christian principles, saves taxpayers money and has better outcomes for offenders, their families and society as a whole.

Then came the inevitable Obama administration “But wait, there’s more” kicker.

According to The New York Times, what Holder said in announcing his criminal justice reforms was, “Prosecutors will be told that they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: Their conduct did not involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.”

What Holder actually said was not that he was proposing criminal justice reform legislation to change the law or to request funding for new programs that actually work, it was an announcement that he planned to simply ignore the law as it stands today, rather than engage in the tough job of selling criminal justice and prison reform to Congress and the public.

In other words, Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan is to ‘improve’ the law by breaking it.

Unfortunately, this is Obama and Holder’s default, go-to strategy whenever they are faced with implementing pretty much any of their policy goals.

From giving some 400,000 young illegal aliens amnesty through “prosecutorial discretion,” to delaying the implementation of various provisions of Obamacare, to flaunting the Fourth Amendment in pursuit of national “security,” actually following the law is their least preferred option.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, put the matter succinctly when he warned Holder not to bypass his committee or the rest of Congress in reforming the federal prisons and criminal justice system.

"Attorney General Holder cannot unilaterally ignore the laws or the limits on his executive powers," Goodlatte wrote in an email to nvdaily.com. "While the attorney general has the ability to use prosecutorial discretion in individual cases, that authority does not extend to entire categories of people."

And therein lies the problem for Holder and Obama: To work, community-based programs using free-market and Christian principles must be applied one person, one offender, at a time – there are no shortcuts.

Conservative governors and legislators in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and South Carolina have been leading on criminal justice and prison reform since at least 2007. They did so by doing the hard work of holding hearings, passing bills and proving to a sometimes skeptical public that the current criminal justice and prison system ill-serves the taxpayers who pay for it, the society it is supposed to protect, and the prisoners whom it is supposed to rehabilitate.

Holder and Obama’s plan sounds good to those who wish to see reforms in our federal criminal justice and prison system. However, the reality is without the hard work of actually changing the federal law to reflect the lessons learned about rehabilitation at the state level, what Holder and Obama are proposing is simply a return to the catch and release mindset of the 60s and 70s that led to the demands for today’s harsh, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful system in the first place.

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Holder and the law

Apparently Mr. Holder has forgotten all of those Reagan appointees who also refused to enforce the laws. (superfund, antitrust laws etc.). I believe some of them went to prison.