US prosecutors told to push for more, harsher punishments

Sessions orders return to tough drug war policies that trigger mandatory minimum sentences

Sessions orders return to tough drug war policies that trigger mandatory minimum sentences

Sessions told the nation's United States attorneys in a memo to pursue the most serious charges possible against most suspects.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the recently released Justice Department guidelines on sentencing and prosecution, saying the policy is "dumb on crime", according to The Washington Examiner.

The memo also directs prosecutors to always pursue sentences with the range calculated by federal guidelines - which are sometimes above even the mandatory minimums - unless a supervisor says it is OK to do otherwise.

"It is an ideologically cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety", Holder said.

In 2015, Trump outright told MSNBC that he's "tough on crime". "And that's why this morning I sent a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Rosenstein, asking him to look into the issue of whether we do need a special prosecutor, and the question of whether there has been a true adherence to the recusal that secretary sessions said that he was doing in regard to the Hillary Clinton matters and to President Trump and the Russian matters", Cummings said.

As a result, during the Obama era, federal prosecutors were instructed not to charge someone for a drug crime that would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence if certain specific factors were met: (a) the relevant conduct didn't involve death, violence, a threat of violence or possession of a weapon; (b) the defendant wasn't an organizer, leader or manager of others within a criminal organization; (c) there were no ties to large-scale drug trafficking operations; and (d) the defendant didn't have a "significant" criminal history (i.e., prior convictions).

More lower-level offenders to harsh mandatory minimum sentences. But apparently he likes that distinction because he just doubled down on it, guaranteeing that more people will be locked up for drug offenses in America's federal prisons.

Still, some prosecutors felt constrained by the Holder directive and expressed concern that they'd lose plea bargaining leverage - and a key inducement for cooperation - without the ability to more freely pursue mandatory minimum sentences.

Under Holder, US attorneys were allowed to negotiate lesser charges and lighter sentences to avoid, for example, a second or third-time non-violent drug offender from being jailed for decades under mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

But the lone republican representing Maryland on Capitol Hill has a different take on the firing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

Sessions' memo to US attorneys is an undoing of Obama-era policies that aimed to ease federal prison overcrowding and show lenience to nonviolent, lower-level drug offenders.

But some prosecutors praised Sessions' new policy.

"The Trump administration is returning to archaic and deeply-flawed policies", Inimai Chettiar, the center's program director, said Friday.

"It's really ironic", she added.

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president, said Sessions' move will disproportionately impact black Americans.

Pollack says Sessions' policy sounds a lot like those of the drug war that "caused mass incarceration, devastated families and communities and failed to make us any safer".

The policy change takes place immediately, even though nearly all the USA attorneys across the county are serving in acting roles, following the request for resignation in March of all remaining as holdovers from the Obama administration.

Sessions' move bucks a growing trend in recent years-in Washington and in states across the country-to abandon some of the harshest sentencing policies created in the 1980s-era war on drugs.

"That "war" treated drugs, addiction, and substance abuse as a crime instead of as a public health issue", Harris told CNN.

"Working with integrity and professionalism, attorneys who implement this policy will meet the high standards required of the Department of Justice for charging and sentencing", Sessions said.

"Jeff Sessions wants to turn back the clock on the progress we've made, and we're going to have to fight and speak out against it", she added.

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