The two-page memo, which was sent to more than 5,000 assistant US attorneys across the country and all assistant attorneys general in Washington, D.C., laid out the policy of tougher charges and longer prison time for criminals. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky decried Sessions' policy on Friday, saying mandatory minimums had "unfairly and disproportionately" targeted minorities for years.
During the Obama administration, Holder's policy had sought to reduce the size of the federal prison system that has always been a financial drag on the Justice Department, representing about 25% of its budget. "But the social and human costs will be much higher". Harvey said the intent was to give federal judges more flexibility in sentencing and reduce prison overcrowding.
"We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple". "Drug trafficking is an inherently risky and violent business". If you want to collect a drug debt, you can't, and you don't, file a lawsuit in court. "You collect it by the barrel of a gun", Sessions said.
The memo is a direct reversal of the policy of his predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, who urged prosecutors to avoid draconian mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
Unfortunately, according to Sessions' 2-page memo, prosecutors are ordered to forget these measurements.
Johnson said this mandate may take away from concentrating on serious larger criminals. Exceptions will only be allowed with approval from a U.S. Attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney general or a designated supervisor and with a documented explanation.
The policy change takes place immediately, even though nearly all the USA attorneys across the county are serving in acting roles, following the request for resignation in March of all remaining as holdovers from the Obama administration. Together, those changes led to a sharp drop in the federal prison population, from 220,000 in 2013 to the current level of 190,000.
Statistics show 46 percent of inmates were jailed for drug related reasons.
These cases often carry the longest sentences.The memo also brings back into effect mandatory minimum sentences, which are expected to increase prosecutions and the prison population. "It is core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense", he wrote.
Sessions and other Justice Department officials argue Holder's approach sidestepped federal laws that impose such sentences and created inconsistency across the country in the way defendants are punished. "Sessions is leaving little to no room for prosecutors to use their judgment and determine what criminal charges best fit the crime". Sessions of Alabama. At one point, Sessions said that "good people" don't do drugs like marijuana and said the reforms would "endanger" Americans. "Rather, they must be permitted to apply the law to the facts of each investigation".
"But on the face of it you would expect that the sentences, particularly in drug trafficking cases, would be longer", Harvey said.