Alberto Gonzales for Fox News Latino: Refocusing our Criminal Justice System

August 15th, 2013

handcuffs blue
Fox News Latino
by Alberto Gonzales
August 15, 2013

As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder was correct in speaking out earlier this week about the challenges to our criminal justice system. I agree with much of what he said and several of his recommendations. In a time of shrinking budgets, the Department of Justice should better spend its resources wisely, and better coordinate with state and local law enforcement, objectives we worked hard to achieve under President George W. Bush.

The Attorney General is correct in saying we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. Education, rehabilitation, and treatment is often a better way, particularly for non-violent offenders. I was also pleased to see the Attorney General acknowledge DOJ priorities of national security, combating violent crime, fighting against financial fraud, and safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our society.

The Attorney General expressed reservations about the harsh results of the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by Congress for certain minor drug offenses, and he called for greater discretion by federal prosecutors in charging these offenses. The mandatory minimum requirements for sentencing, and to some extent the Department’s charging policy, were intended to promote uniformity in the overall administration of justice. Defendants in Vermont should not be punished differently from defendants in Texas for essentially the same conduct. It is ironic that in the same speech in which the Attorney General laments the racial disparity in our criminal justice system, he announces a change in charging policy that creates the potential for even greater sentencing disparity by giving more discretion to federal prosecutors. While I agree that prosecutors should have discretion, Congress and the American people should monitor this new policy carefully to ensure such discretion is not abused.

Read More