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.
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?