A growing number of state and local prosecutors have come out in opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent directive on sentencing.
After the Obama administration’s ease on pursuing heavy sentences for many federal crimes, Sessions issued a reversal, ordering federal prosecutors to go for the throat and seek the most serious charges possible against the majority of suspects.
It isn’t surprising as both the President and Sessions have, numerous times, pledged to be “tougher” on crime and “restore” law and order. Both men have also said that a priority of theirs is to combat violence and drugs to the fullest extent of the law.
While targeting violent offenders and large-scale drug operations is undoubtedly good, Sessions has signaled his intentions are to return to policies of throwing the book at nonviolent and low-level offenders, pursuing the harshest sentences allowed.
The move was expected after Sessions reversed the decision made under Obama to close private prisons.
Within the directive, Sessions reversed another policy of his predecessor. To avoid triggering hefty sentences, former Attorney General Eric Holder would allow prosecutors to leave drug quantities out of charging documents. This was part of a larger “Smart on Crime” initiative to reform sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders.
The letter from the coalition of state and local prosecutors reads, “The Attorney General’s directive marks an unnecessary and unfortunate return to past ‘tough on crime’ practices that we now know simply don’t enhance or promote the safety of our communities.”
It continues, “There is no empirical evidence to suggest that increases in sentences, particularly for low-level offenses, decrease the crime rate.”
The letter proceeds to address misconceptions about the current state of crime and violence in the country and highlights the need to adopt some recommendations in a previously released report by the group, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.
The group of law enforcement leaders sent an open letter detailing a number of policy recommendations to the new administration last winter. “We urge President Trump to join the bipartisan effort to reduce unnecessary incarceration by making it a priority for his administration and the country,” read their letter.
Over 30 state and local prosecutors have signed on in support of the letter so far, including Harris County District Attorney, Kim Ogg.
The prosecutors closed out by saying, “we will continue in our own jurisdictions to undertake innovative approaches that promote public safety and fairness, and that ensure that law enforcement’s finite resources are directed to the arrest and prosecution of the most serious offenders.”