Lawmakers unveil bill to combat Sessions’ push for tougher sentences

Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s order last week directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act in response to the drastic shift from Obama-era guidelines, which urged prosecutors to crack down on violent criminals and leaders of drug cartels while being more lenient with nonviolent, low-level drug offenders.

{mosads}The legislation unveiled Tuesday gives federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Paul was quick to criticize Sessions’s order last week, writing in a CNN op-ed that the directive would “accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system.”

“Mandatory minimum sentences disproportionally affect minorities and low-income communities, while doing little to keep us safe and turning mistakes into tragedies. As this legislation demonstrates, Congress can come together in a bipartisan fashion to change these laws,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The lawmakers claim the judicial discretion created by the two-page bill will help reduce the bloated federal prison population and tackle dangerous overcrowding while ensuring sentences fit the circumstances of the crime.

Tags Bobby Scott Jeff Merkley Jeff Sessions Patrick Leahy Rand Paul
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