Sessions ends Obama-era leniency on sentencing

Holder himself responded, calling the policy "dumb on crime", "ideologically motivated", and "cookie cutter".

We must ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers. However, those exceptions have to obtain approval from top supervisors with documented reasoning so that that Justice Department can keep tabs on the handling of those cases.

The two-page memo, which was sent to more than 5,000 assistant USA 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.

He has vowed to crack down on violence and drugs at the Justice Department. In doing so, Sessions and his team will be walking back years of progress made and will sentence generations to lower living standards. "You had people who weren't able to be responsible fathers for their kids, who weren't able to serve a couple of years for making a mistake, then come home and do better".

Violent crime remains at a historic low nationally-violent and property crimes have dropped by a combined 14.6 percent between 2010 and 2015-although it spiked slightly between 2014 and 2015 according to Federal Bureau of Investigation figures; Sessions has used this as evidence that we ought to return to harsher sentencing practices.

But Sessions said the opioid scourge shows the need to return to tougher tactics. "Reversing this directive will exacerbate prison overcrowding, increase spending and jeopardize the safety of staff and prisoners", he said. Sherrilyn Iffil, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said the Attorney General had "turned back the clock" on criminal justice and paved the way for disproportionate punishment of people of color. 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.

This move reverses guidance from former Attorney General Eric Holder, who permitted prosecutors to leave unmentioned in the charges they brought the quantity of drugs involved in these low-level cases.

Sessions said that under the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would stand behind law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

In cases in which prosecutors decide to veer from the new rules, the exception will need to be approved by top supervisors and the reasons must be documented, allowing the Justice Department to track the handling of such cases by its 94 USA attorney's offices.

Sessions' memo, which calls on prosecutors to charge and pursue the "most serious" offenses, isn't welcome news for the wrongfully convicted.

Officials say Holder's "Smart on Crime" policy "convoluted the process", and left prosecutors applying the law unevenly, which they said "is not Justice".

Policies implemented by Holder during the Obama Administration were aimed at reducing the number of non-violent offenders jailed, and the immediate costs associated with decades of stringent drug policy. Civil rights advocates praised the move for keeping nonviolent drug dealers from getting similar sentences as murderers and rapists.

This policy will probably lead to more convictions and a higher prison population.

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