January 23, 2014
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Charlottesville on Thursday talking prison, pot and privacy, among other topics.
Holder was a guest at the Miller Center's American Forum at the University of Virginia.
In an hour-long interview with host Douglas Blackmon for a taping of a weekly public affairs program, Holder spent time reflecting on his six years of service as attorney general, but also discussed what he hopes to accomplish in the future.
Holder said one major focus is on the nearly 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in the United States.
He said that number is too high and wants to work on prevention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs, as well as encourage case-by-case sentencing to cut down on what he calls "inordinately long" sentences.
"To look at the defendant that is in front of you and decide what's justice in this case? Not to have some pronouncement from Washington that says you've got to have a 5 year sentence, a 10 year sentence, a 15 year sentence. You, Mr. Prosecutor, you, Ms. Prosecutor, you decide," said Holder.
On the topic of the changing legal landscape of marijuana legalization, Holder said we can expect some regulations to be issued "very soon."
Holder said the justice department is working with the treasury department to address the issue that, in some states that have legalized the drug, there are businesses that are recognized by the state as legal, but some banks are unwilling to handle their money for fear of federal prosecution.
He said it becomes a public safety problem when you have large amounts of cash sitting around. He called the regulations that are in the works "dealing with reality" rather than "accommodations."
Holder also elaborated on comments made earlier in the day about a possible resolution with Edward Snowden, the former government contractor accused of leaking private information as part of the NSA controversy.
Holder said clemency is not something they are willing to consider, but aren't ruling out any interaction with him.
"If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States, enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We'd do that with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty," said Holder.
Holder is the 82nd attorney general of the United States. He is the first African-American to hold the position.