Federal Prosecutors Oppose Sentencing Reform, Say Crime Would Rise


Nervous federal prosecutors are trying to rally opposition to criminal sentencing reform in response to President Obama's week of issuing commutations and making pro-reform speeches, says U.S. News & World Report. The president and a bipartisan group in Congress say inflexible penalties for various drug crimes should be reduced or eliminated as a matter of fairness. The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys says there should be no such change. “The federal criminal justice system is not broken,” said Steve Cook, the association’s president. “What a huge mistake it would be,” he said, to change sentencing laws. Cook predicted the crime rate would rise and prosecutors would lose a tool to extract information if laws were made more lenient. He denounced reformers for saying nonviolent offenders are being ensnared by tough drug laws. “They have misled the public every time they say, ‘We're talking about nonviolent drug offenders,'” he said. “Drug trafficking is inherently violent. … If you're not willing to engage in violence [then] you will be out of the business quickly, or worse.”

Cook said the small number of inmates whose sentences have been shortened by Obama shows there's not much of a problem with people serving unreasonably long sentences. Rather than focus on reducing sentences, he said, the government should consider building more prison facilities. “Do I think it would be a good investment to build more [prisons]? Yeah, no question about it!” he said. Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums says Cook's assertion the crime rate would rise after sentencing reform is a “demonstrably false claim and a shameful scare tactic.”

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