Jeff Sessions Demands Prosecutors Seek Most Severe Sentences For All Crimes

A brief report by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seen here during his confirmation hearing in March was used to justify sacking the FBI chief

U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions has issued a memo to federal prosecutors around the country, directing them to seek harsher penalties for low-level offenses-bringing back the type of policy that contributed to the ballooning mass- incarceration system in the United States. And, they say, the Justice Department's re-embrace of charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences will hamstring judges from making decisions rooted in the facts of a case, as opposed to preset minimums widely blamed for mass incarceration. "The Department of Justice should be committed to acquiring the resources it needs to perform and complete a thorough and aggressive investigation into this Administration's ties to Russian Federation, inclusive of the Attorney General, instead of trying to refill our prisons on the backs of vulnerable communities". One of the big factors in why so many individuals serving time in federal prison were convicted on drug charges is because they pled down from more serious charges, such as armed robbery or even murder, in relation to the drug offense.

Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Campaign for Smart Justice, said Sessions is pushing federal prosecutors to repeat a failed experiment: the war on drugs. But with the FBI investigating Russian meddling in last year's election and possible ties to the Trump campaign, Sessions promised to keep his distance. And we know this because it has been widely recognized as a awful old policy.

Sessions' memo, dated on Wednesday, rescinds the Obama-era policy, saying federal prosecutors must now get approval from a supervisor if they want to bring charges or seek sentences that are milder than the strictest options available in a case.

Paul has pushed for reforms to the criminal justice system, including reduction of mandatory minimum sentences on drug crimes, expungement of felony records and restoration of voting rights, though the proposals haven't garnered enough support to get a floor vote. The Judiciary panel advanced that measure in 2015 on a 15-5 vote.

The Obama policies had led to a sharp decline in the number of those charged with drug crimes who were given mandatory minimum sentences, from 62 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sessions however, is working to punish and imprison offenders to the fullest extent possible and working to include minimum mandatory sentences.




Now, despite years of progress, some drug policy experts are anxious that the shift in DOJ priorities could signal a return to that bygone era of draconian laws and strict enforcement.

As the are now showing, Sessions and his Justice Department are not interest in that level of common-sense and forgiveness. "The policy announced today is not tough on crime", Holder said. "It is of the utmost importance to enforce the law fairly and consistently".

Under 21 U.S.C. ยง 851, prosecutors can request a harsher sentence for some federal crimes if they can demonstrate that the defendant has prior convictions that suggest a tendency toward recidivism.

All in all, it's safe to say Sessions' memo directing a renewed pursuit of mandatory sentences introduces a bad new policy.

Holder predicted Sessions' directive will be "substantively and financially ruinous" and will force the agency to revert to the days of spending "one third of its budget in incarcerating people, rather than preventing, detecting or investigating crime". The memo was an attempt at mercy in order to lessen the long-term consequences for non-violent, low-level drug offenders. "This will help law enforcement do our jobs better".

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