In response to the announcements made by Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday while addressing the American Bar Association, Henry Garza, the president of the National District Attorneys Association, said “repeating the myth that prisons are full of first-time, nonviolent offenders leaves America’s 40,000 prosecutors, who handle over 95 percent of the criminal prosecutions in the country, shaking their collective heads. The reality is that almost every offender, in every state prison, is there for a violent offense or sexual offense, or for committing repeated offenses.”
Henry Garza of Belton, Texas, is the president of the National District Attorneys Association, which has been the voice of America’s state and local prosecutors for over 60 years.
Scott Burns, executive director of NDAA stated “for the attorney general of the United States to call the criminal justice system ‘broken’ is simply not true. The reality is crime is down dramatically in this country; homicides are down 50 percent over the past 30 years and crimes of rape, robbery and burglary are down 30 percent to 40 percent. Today the attorney general directed U.S. attorneys to decline to prosecute low level offenses, particularly low level drug offenses, and the truth is that U.S. attorneys do not currently prosecute low level offenses so, in effect, Mr. Holder directed his U.S. attorneys, who prosecute about 5 percent of all crime committed in America, to not prosecute cases they are currently not prosecuting.”
Further, Mr. Burns added, “NDAA has recently supported sentencing reform through Congressional action to reduce unjust thresholds which triggered mandatory minimum sentences for certain types of drug offenses. However, Attorney General Holder’s guidance for U.S. attorneys to simply pick and choose which federal crimes they prosecute is both reckless and unprecedented.”
NDAA President Garza further stated that “state and local prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and members of law enforcement always look at every possible alternative to incarceration: Diversion programs, re-entry programs, drug counseling, probation, stayed sentences, drug courts and a host of other options before prison is considered. And we have for decades, but the overriding consideration has been and shall remain the safety of communities we represent and justice for victims of crime. America’s prosecutors will continue to work with legislators, judges, police, victims, and criminal defense lawyers to get smart in the fight against crime. But we will all have to accept the reality that we will not achieve substantial savings by releasing first-time, nonviolent offenders from prison, because those criminals simply are not sent to prison in the first place.”