(PPN) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants more sever punishments. Sessions told federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and follow mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.
According to the Washington Post, 30 current and former state and local prosecutors have signed an open letter opposing the AG’s request. The letter was released Friday by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution.
Prosecutors are not “forced” to apply these laws but the thought of Sessions request raised concern.
“What you’re seeing in this letter is a different wind of change that’s blowing through the criminal justice field,” said Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network working with newly elected prosecutors.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and Karl Racine, attorney general of the District of Columbia all signed the letter.
“It’s an interesting issue because the attorney general of the United States has no power over local prosecutors, so his directive doesn’t impact my work,” Deschutes County (Ore.) District Attorney John Hummel said in an interview. “I thought it was important to tell the people in Deschutes County that this policy doesn’t bind me but I still disagree with it.”
The increased use of mandatory minimum sentences will necessarily expand the federal prison population and inflate federal spending on incarceration. There is a human cost as well. Instead of providing people who commit low-level drug offenses or who are struggling with mental illness with treatment, support and rehabilitation programs, the policy will subject them to decades of incarceration. In essence, the Attorney General has reinvigorated the failed “war on drugs,” which is why groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute to Right on Crime have all criticized the newly announced policy.
The signers say the purpose of the letter is to make it clear not all those in the justice system share Sessions’s view.