Senators Press Sessions on Low-Level Drug Cases

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Three Democratic senators are urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to return to policies that urge prosecutors to pursue long mandatory-minimum prison sentences against low-level drug offenders, reports Politico. Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Dick Durbin (IL) and Patrick Leahy (VT) wrote Sessions pleading with him not to abandon the Obama administration’s “Smart on Crime” initiative that led to earlier releases for those convicted of drug dealing in the federal system. “Changes to current drug charging policies that lead to more mandatory minimum penalties in low-level, nonviolent drug cases will not increase public safety and will only increase taxpayer spending on our bloated federal prison system,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned about a possible shift in the Justice Department’s treatment of federal drug cases and the specter that mandatory minimum penalties may once again be used by the Justice Department on a routine basis as tools to prosecute low-level nonviolent drug offenses.”

The senators were reacting to a memo Sessions sent to federal prosecutors on March 8, urging a more intense focus on violent crime and signaling that the department plans to roll back some directives in which Attorney General Eric Holder instructed prosecutors to not always seek the most severe charges available. Booker, Durbin and Leahy took issue with the central premise behind Sessions’ recent moves: the notion that the U.S. is at the leading edge of a major surge in crime. “A rise in violent crime in some cities in no way supports a need to charge more mandatory minimums to deter nonviolent drug trafficking crimes nationwide,” the senators said.

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