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Sessions orders federal prosecutors to charge maximum sentences

13 May 2017
Sessions orders federal prosecutors to charge maximum sentences

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday announced a new tough-on-crime policy that requires federal prosecutors to impose the highest charges and seek the longest sentences in criminal cases. Mr. Sessions's policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general. Advocates of justice reform say that the nation's opioid crisis is evidence that tough policies of the past have failed. "At the end of the day this [memo] is just another step in the sequence of steps that the AG has further taken to position himself in the "80s-style rhetoric of 'Just Say No" and the '70s-style rhetoric of 'The War On Drugs'".

An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday alleging that his participation in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey violated Justice Department rules and Sessions's promise to recuse himself from matters involving Russian Federation. "Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war". He rescinded two policy memos signed by a predecessor, former Atty. Gen.

In their letter, Madigan and the attorneys general call the firing of former FBI Director James Comey during his ongoing investigation into possible interference "a violation of the public trust".

As Politicoreported in March, many experts say treatment and support do more for people who abuse drugs than jail time and harsh punishments. This policy utilizes the tools Congress has given us.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, offered praise for Sessions' new action, saying "law enforcement should side with the victims of crime rather than its perpetrators".

Now, if prosecutors wish to pursue lesser charges for these low-level crimes, they will need to obtain approval for the exception from a USA attorney, assistant attorney general or another supervisor.

"The price of heroin is down, the availability is up, and the purity is up", Sessions said. Harvey said the intent was to give federal judges more flexibility in sentencing and reduce prison overcrowding.

The directive undoes guidance from Obama's first Attorney General, Eric Holder, who said prosecutors could leave drug quantities out of charging documents so as not to trigger long sentences in a 2013 initiative. Prison sentences for black men were found in a 2013 US Sentencing Commission analysis to be nearly 20 percent longer than those for white men who had committed similar crimes. By age 14, around a quarter of black children have had an incarcerated parent.

The new policy is expected to lead to more federal prosecutions and an increase in the federal prison population.

Sessions's directive affects only federal, not state, prosecutorial policies, but as part of a Trump administration about-face based on rhetoric suggesting the country is awash in a crime wave (despite crime rates that are a fraction of what they were several decades ago), it could be very persuasive to Republican pols across the country.

"It is an ideologically motivated, 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", he said in a statement, accusing Sessions of "turning back the clock to a discredited, emotionally-motivated, ideological policy".