Published: Sun, May 14, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

US prosecutors told to push for more, harsher punishments

"The most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences", Sessions wrote in a memo on the new guidance.

Sessions' move Friday nullified that memo.

That being an era of accountability, where enforcing the law takes precedent over political objectives.

Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to review all its policy agreements with troubled police departments across the country - which he says stand in the way of tough policing - and marijuana advocates fear he might crack down on the drug even in states that have legalized it.

"It's exactly the opposite of not just what Maryland is doing but states all across the country are doing", said state Sen.

"We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple", Sessions said in a speech announcing the change. But now Jeff Sessions is saying the law is the law. The Justice Department released the new directives Friday.

Earlier DOJ Guidance that discouraged the federal prosecution of low-level drug offenders resulted in a 14% drop in federal prosecution of drug cases and a focus on more serious offenses and more risky offenders.

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Said Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for Utah: "Decades of experience shows we can not arrest and incarcerate our way out of America's drug problem. But we ought to be able to analyze that under the factors that judges use for sentencing".

Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said that while Sessions might think he's being tough on crime, research shows "you can't jail your way out of addiction".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today issued a sweeping update to the Department of Justice's criminal charging policy, one that has some NY officials and advocates fearful that the War on Drugs may be returning to levels not seen since the 1980s. On Friday, the billionaire Koch brothers came out against the harsh punishments, noting that "there are less costly and more effective ways to help low level offenders.other than incarceration". "They deserve to be unhandcuffed and not micro-managed from Washington. It's like he's ignoring all the research that has happened since then", Zirkin said.

Holder's 2013 initiative, known as "Smart on Crime", was aimed at encouraging shorter sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and preserving Justice Department resources for more serious and violent criminals. "Holder instructed prosecutors to avoid mandatory-minimum charges if the following four conditions, as written up by CNN, 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)".

So, in practical effect you have to treat all of the cases the same, and charge the highest provable offense. Some prosecutors use these tough tools as a hammer in plea negotiations, or to force offenders to cooperate. We must ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers. Sessions' memo undoes that direction.

"It looks like we're going to fill the prisons back up after finally getting the federal prison population down", said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. And yet, 40 percent of people incarcerated in federal prisons on drug charges are black, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

"Those numbers will go up when you are telling prosecutors to charge the harshest crimes they can get", said Molly Gill, FAMM's director of federal legislative affairs.

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