Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) aimed to overhaul federal minimum sentencing laws, particularly to help those facing low-level drug charges from facing prosecution and lengthy minimum jail-time.
During an American Bar Association speech Monday, Holder plans to say: “Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities… However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.”
The New York Times noted on Holder’s prepared remarks that he plans to detail the extent of the over-incarcertion rate and its roots in the War on Drugs. The A.G. will comment that while the American population has grown by about a third since 1980, its prison rate has increased nearly 800 percent. At the federal level, more than 219,000 inmates are currently behind bars — nearly half for drug-related crimes — and the prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above their official capacity.
Human rights advocates will celebrate the DOJ’s decision as a possible move to attenuate the U.S.’s vast over-incarceration problem. I’ve written for some months too — particularly in light of Aaron Swartz’s suicide facing a hefty minimum sentence at trial — about the undue leverage given to government prosecutors in a judicial system based around minimum sentencing. With the threat of hefty minimum sentences at trial, prosecutors are able to extract from defendants a disproportionate number of guilty pleas before trial (marking millions of Americans with criminal records.)
As Angela Davis, American University law professor wrote last year, “When one considers the fact that more than 95 percent of all criminal cases are resolved with guilty pleas, it is very clear that prosecutors control the criminal justice system through their charging and plea bargaining powers.” Holder’s comments may always spell an end to the federal crackdown of drug dispensaries where the sale of marijuana has been legalized — a federal vs. state battle that has seen dispensary owners, following their state law, facing federal charges carrying decade-long minimum sentences.
“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Holder will note according to released prepared remarks. Facing a wealth of criticism over the DOJ’s treatment of leakers and scant regard, it seems, for the Fourth Estate or Fourth Amendment, the policy shift announced Monday could be a significant silver lining on Holder’s otherwise stormy legacy.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.