Smart on Crime? Sessions backs Mandatory Minimums

WHAT IT IS

  • Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions sent a memo encouraging federal prosecutors to charge suspects with the toughest penalties possible.
  • One of the major issues is mandatory minimum sentences, which require prosecutors to punish certain crimes with a minimum number of years in prison regardless of context.
  • The charging factors that former AG, Eric Holder, put in place during the Obama Administration to reduce the number of cases that qualify for mandatory minimum sentences have been eliminated.

WHY IT MATTERS

Mandatory minimum sentences have resulted in a disproportionate incarceration of minorities, over-crowded prisons, and harsh judgments being handed out. What could be considered a minor drug offense will now cost someone big. For example, John Horner, 46-year-old fast food worker, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for selling only $1,800 worth of painkillers.

  • WAR ON DRUGS – “Old is better”

    • Uniformity desired:   Obama era policies created inconsistency in the way defendants are punished and they sidestepped federal laws.
    • Safety:   The Eric Holder approach weakens the ability of law enforcement to protect the public.
    • Drugs Kill:   The opioid and heroin epidemic needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, due to their contribution in the rise of violent crimes in America.
  • SMART ON CRIME – “Old is discriminatory”

    • Learn from history:   Mandatory minimum sentences did nothing but implement controversial sentencing policies, increase prison populations, increase prison costs, and punish rather than rehabilitate drug offenders.
    • Financially irresponsible:   Money should be spent on preventing, detecting or investigating crime, rather than incarcerating people (estimated ⅓ of budget will now be spent focusing on incarceration).
    • Remember the origin:   Mandatory minimum penalties were originally reserved for serious high-level or violent drug traffickers.

WHERE ARE WE NOW

  • The effects will be felt most immediately in the narcotics context because sentences are determined primarily by drug type and quantity.
  • Significant bipartisan backlash is emerging across the country.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Since 1980, mandatory minimum sentences have caused a drop in crime but an increase in incarceration disproportionately against minorities and a rise in prison populations, including private prisons.
  • Are Jeff Sessions policies aimed at giving prosecutors more discretion or the federal government more control?
  • Should prosecutors be forced to implement rulings regardless of context surround a sentencing
  • Will this be the last major shift from current criminal justice policy or is it only the beginning?