An ‘Enormous Step Forward’:
In an official statement, National Bar Association President Patricia Rosier stated, “The NBA has long been an advocate for reform relative to the disparities in mandatory prison sentencing that disproportionately impacts communities of color. We applaud Attorney General Holder’s statements today as they are the first step in confronting and extinguishing these disparities and inequalities that exist within our communities.”
Bryan Stevenson—a professor at NYU Law School and the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative—called the Holder speech an “enormous step forward” and “a very significant change.” In an interview on “The Rachel Maddow Show“, Stevenson elaborated on the role of judicial and prosecutorial discretion in the federal drug laws.
“You know when we passed mandatory minimum laws everybody thinks that it eliminated discretion, but in fact it didn’t. It took discretion away from judges and it actually gave it to prosecutors,” he said. “And today the attorney general said he’s going to exercise that discretion in a way that actually reduces the number of people being sent to prison for these long prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug crimes,” Stevenson added.