Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Some criminals could see less prison time under a new plan proposed but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The plan would reduce sentences given to some non-violent federal drug offenders.
"It does not do anything to solve the problem. The only people it will make happy are the big drug dealers," said Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews.
He says he is concern about the impact the proposal could have.
"They're not violent criminals, but the substances that they sell cause people to become violent; cause people to steal, to break in, to cause problems at home, to cause all kinds of problems," he said.
Matthews says drug crimes often fund gangs, and that gives law enforcement a way to address the problem.
"Drug dealers who are involved in gangs, that's how you get them. It's not against the law to be in a gang per se, but the crime that's associated with the gang and many of the crimes are drug dealing," said Matthews.
U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, Bill Nettles, says his office has been working on changes for years. He says this new plan give prosecutors more discretion in whether to be lenient or harsher. He also says it gets rid of a one-size fits all approach.
"We're not saying that we're not gonna put people in jail, we're not gonna be tough on crime, what we're saying is that we're gonna be smarter about it, and I believe that in the past there was a misconception that we could incarcerate our way out of this problem," he said.
Supporters say it will help ease overcrowding in federal prisons, and for Nettles, it is a return to a system used in the U.S. before the implementation of sentencing guidelines.
He says prosecutors will have the option of allowing cases to be seen in state courts, or referring people to diversionary programs. He believes the plan will lead to a fairer criminal justice system in our country.
"It's all about being smarter, the federal government is still going to be handing down significant harsh sentences," he said.
Nettles says his office has already begun a drug court and a drug endangered child program that works to address the root of the drug problem. He says those efforts have practice for nearly three years.