Sentencing panel to focus on mandatory minimums

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Sentencing Commission has voted unanimously to address concerns with mandatory minimum prison penalties.

The commission action follows a Justice Department policy shift that was announced on Monday. Attorney General Eric Holder said the department would target long mandatory sentences that he says have flooded the nation's prisons with low-level drug offenders and diverted crime-fighting dollars that could be better spent.

On Thursday, the sentencing commission set as its top priority working with Congress to change federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

The commission wants Congress to reduce the severity and scope of mandatory minimum penalties and consider expanding a law that exempts certain low-level nonviolent offenders from mandatory minimum prison terms.

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