Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 11:13 am
Virtually any time a major event ripples across Washington, the Justice Department is positioned near the center of it.
From the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner that carried three Americans on board to the fate of voting rights for millions of people, the attorney general has an enormous portfolio. And the stress to match it.
But after an elevated heart rate sent him to the hospital last month, Eric Holder says he's on the mend.
Over lunch at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder and Sen. Rand Paul discussed changes in criminal sentencing and restoring voting rights to ex-felons, a pair of issues the Democratic attorney general and the Republican senator regard as vital to improving the criminal justice system.
In a statement following Wednesday's meeting, the Justice Department said Holder appreciates Paul's leadership on both issues and is pleased to have the opportunity to work with him on shared priorities.
Holder and Paul agree on the need to stem prison overcrowding, which they say diverts money away from crime fighting, and to stop charging many nonviolent, low-level drug defendants with offenses that carry long mandatory minimum sentences.
Some big changes could be in store for the federal criminal justice system. In a speech to the American Bar Association Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said some of the changes include scaling back the use of harsh prison sentences for certain drug-related crimes and diversion of low-level offenders to drug treatment and community service.
Kentucky already has experience with what Holder is proposing. The General Assembly passed a law in 2011 to reduce the prison population using some of the same methods. Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown talked about the law's impact as a guest on NPR's Here and Now.
"A year ago, our prison population was 22,118. Today it was 19,899," explained Brown. "When you estimate a little over $20,000 a year, and that's a conservative estimate, to house each inmate, that starts adding up to real dollars."
Despite concerns by opponents of early release, Secretary Brown said recidivism is down and Kentucky's crime rate has remained virtually flat since the law took effect two years ago.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is filibustering the nomination of John Brennan as the next C.I.A director.
Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, is expressing his displeasure with Brennan's testimony on the issue of the possible use of drones by the U.S. government to attack citizens on American soil.
Paul is also upset with a letter sent to him by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. In the letter, Holder said the President had the right to order drone strikes against American citizens in the U.S.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, Paul said "no one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country."
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is blasting Attorney General Eric Holder's statement that President Obama could order the use of deadly force against an American inside the United States. The claim came in a letter Holder sent to Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul that was released Tuesday.