A day after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces a change in federal policy when it comes to prosecuting non-violent drug offenders, a local district attorney says he doesn't believe it will have much of impact on reducing the federal prison population.
Gwinnett County D.A. Danny Porter says that 90 percent of drug cases are handled by state prosecutors.
"Those few federal cases with mandatory minimum sentencing account for such a low number of total defendants," he says.
Porter believes Holder bowed to pressure from those who call such sentences unfair.
"I think he may have had some idea that it wouldn't make an impact, but it makes a big splash," he says.
On the other hand, Porter believes Georgia's recent reforms in its criminal justice system are having an impact.
The law, passed by the Legislature in 2012, gives judges greater discretion in sentencing non-violent drug offenders, including drug courts and treatment programs. It also increases the threshold for felony shoplifting, and other theft crimes, and creates a third category for burglary of unoccupied structures.
"Georgia is moving quickly to reduce the prison population, but we're also moving very quickly to put in the community resources to allow people to be supervised back in their community," says Porter.
He says he's guardedly optimistic that those resources will be in place in time to make a difference.