Attorney General Eric Holder praised Friday's unanimous vote by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce the sentences of 46,000 inmates currently serving time for drug offenses.
"This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system," Holder said in a statement reported by the Los Angeles Times.
While Holder chose to back the commission's decision, he had formerly been critical of the scope of the possible sentence reductions. The attorney general, along with a number of prosecutors and other Justice Department officials, had supported a narrower approach that would in theory weed out drug traffickers who were poor candidates for early release. As is, the decision will not go into effect for a year, which the Justice Department says will give judges time to review each candidate and ensure their early release does not pose a threat to public safety.
Congress could still block the decision, although it must do so by November 1, and the plan has received support from both sides of the aisle.