Under the Obama administration, the previous attorney general discouraged federal prosecutors from charging defendants who weren’t part of big drug trafficking organizations or gangs with offenses that would require long mandatory minimum sentences.
“First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense. This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency. This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.” (emphases added)
From the Washington Times:
According to statistics from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the number of drug crimes given mandatory five- or 10-year sentences dropped, from an average of 14,000 from 2011 to 2013 to around 10,000 in 2014. Before stepping down in 2015, Mr. Holder said his policy of leniency for nonviolent and low-level drug users caused federal drug prosecutions to drop 6 percent in 2014.
At the same time, the federal prison population has been on the decline, from a high of approximately 219,000 inmates in 2013 to 192,000 inmates in 2016.
One opponent of the new administration’s policy brought up race.
Drug Policy Alliance deputy director Michael Collins e-mailed this statement to NPR:
“This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety. Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war.”
The attorney general intends for his order to go into effect immediately.