How Jeff Sessions' Drug Sentencing Guidelines Could Restart War On Drugs

Sessions' DOJ releases memo to all 94 US attorneys calling for reversal of Holder-era policy

Sessions' DOJ releases memo to all 94 US attorneys calling for reversal of Holder-era policy

Sessions is directing federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against the vast majority of suspects, a reversal of Obama-era policies that is sure to send more people to prison and for much longer terms.

Even some law enforcement types joined in the criticism, with Law Enforcement Leaders, a group of about 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors, calling the Sessions memo "misguided".

JEFF SESSIONS: We intend to reverse this trend.

The new policy will no doubt increase both federal prosecutions and increase prison populations, a fact that will echo issues into the future.

"I think what he is doing setting the tone that this administration is committed to being tough on criminals", said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

The NAACP released the following statement regarding the DOJ's decision to promote the use of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

"Drug business is big criminal business. You collect it with the barrel of a gun".

In a letter to 94 USA attorneys Thursday night, Sessions called it a "core principle" that prosecutors charge and pursue "the most serious and readily provable offense". Those rules limit a judge's discretion and are typically dictated, for example, by the quantity of drugs involved in a crime.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department believes critics of mandatory minimum sentences are challenging laws approved by Congress. "Is the attorney general saying this in drug cases, but not in white collar cases?"

In a two-page memo to federal prosecutors across the country, Sessions on Friday overturned former attorney general Eric H. Holder's sweeping criminal charging policy that instructed his prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants with offences that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences, reports The Washington Post.

Violent crime has increased over the last two years in numerous nation's cities, though it is still far below rates in the 1990s.

Officials say Holder's "Smart on Crime" policy "convoluted the process", and left prosecutors applying the law unevenly, which they said "is not Justice".

Sessions announced the change in a memo sent Thursday night to USA attorneys and made public on Friday, saying it is "the right and moral thing to do". In 2013, when the Obama administration changed policies, the population was at a staggering 220,000, causing an overcrowding in the prisons that was become too large to handle.

These kinds of policies have always failed to curb drug use in the past and have previously led to an epidemic in prison overpopulation. For example, if someone is caught with 1,000 kilos of marijuana, which would kick in a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence, attorneys must now tell the court the full amount or marijuana. "Is he also asking for the most serious charges there?"

When President Trump came into office and appointed Jeff Sessions, drug war activists feared that he would take away the tremendous progress that was gained under the Obama administration. He argues Holder's approach sidestepped federal laws that impose such sentences and created inconsistency across the country in the way defendants are punished.

The memo allows for "good judgment" by a prosecutor in cases that need to sway from the new guidelines. "They deserve to be unhandcuffed and not micro-managed from Washington".

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