Rosenstein: Use Toughest Penalties for Worst Criminals

Print More

The Justice Department’s new policy urging harsher punishments is meant to target the worst gang members and drug traffickers, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, in an effort to mollify critics who fear a revival of drug war policies, the Associated Press reports. “We’re not about filling prisons,” Rosenstein told the AP. “The mission is to reduce violent crime and drug abuse, and this helps us do that.” He emphasized giving prosecutors the ability to decide whether to level charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences, a carrots-and-sticks approach for gaining cooperation. He acknowledged that federal prosecutors will sometimes charge lower-level criminals to take down entire gangs but “that’s the exception not the rule.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed prosecutors to seek the steepest penalties for most crime suspects, a reversal of Obama-era policies that aimed to reduce the federal prison population and show more leniency to lower-level drug offenders. Former AG Eric Holder told prosecutors they could leave drug quantities out of documents to avoid charging suspects with crimes that trigger mandatory minimum punishments. Some prosecutors worried about a loss of plea-bargaining leverage under the Holder rule. Rosenstein said he implemented Holder’s policy when it was issued in 2013, but believes recent spikes in violence in some cities necessitate a new approach. Supporters of Holder’s policy “felt like there were too many people in prison and crime rates were falling … We’re in a different position now,” he said, adding, that prosecutors should use maximum penalties “in cases they think [are] important. We’re not micromanaging from Washington.” Nancy La Vigne of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute said the new policy “will increase the volume of people behind bars and at considerable expense to the federal government.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


You have Free articles left this month.

Want access to all our reporting? Subscribe for unlimited access or login.