WASHINGTON (AP) — The proposals outlined Monday by Attorney General Eric Holder could represent the most significant changes in the way the federal justice system handles drug cases since the government declared a war on drugs in the 1980s.

Holder says the nation's prisons have been flooded with low-level drug offenders because of mandatory prison terms. He says crime-fighting dollars could be better spent elsewhere.

Holder is telling federal prosecutors to stop charging many non-violent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.

In remarks to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Holder said prisons should be used to "punish, deter and rehabilitate" -- not to "convict, warehouse and forget."

There's already support in Congress for Holder's ideas. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he's encouraged by the administration's view that mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders promote injustice and don't serve public safety.