Durbin Statement on AG Sessions Move to Force Needlessly Harsh Prison Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenses
CHICAGO—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement on a new Justice Department policy that rescinds the Smart on Crime Initiative, which directed federal prosecutors to reserve stiff mandatory minimum sentences for individuals convicted of the most serious offenses, and instead requires prosecutors to seek the longest possible sentence even for low-level nonviolent offenses:
This policy shift flies in the face of the growing bipartisan consensus that we need to reduce—not increase—the length of prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. It will send already skyrocketing prison costs even higher, undermining other important public safety priorities and separating nonviolent drug offenders from their families for years, which has a destructive effect on communities and erodes faith in our criminal justice system. Attorney General Sessions criticized the previous Administration for requiring federal prosecutors to reserve stiff mandatory minimum sentences for the worst offenders, but his new policy will micromanage prosecutors in the opposite direction by requiring the harshest possible sentences for low-level nonviolent drug offenses. It’s no coincidence that the Sessions memo was quietly signed on the same day the President was making major headlines for firing FBI Director Comey because of his investigation of Trump—this policy is unjust and unwise and can’t withstand even minimal public scrutiny.
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