Senators challenge Sessions's 'tough on crime' order

Senators challenge Sessions's 'tough on crime' order
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Leading advocates for criminal justice reform in the Senate are pushing back against Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage House gears up for Mueller testimony Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender MORE’s order directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible. 

In a letter to Sessions this week, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' MORE (R-Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Overnight Defense: Iran seizes British tanker in latest escalation | US, UK to discuss situation | Trump says 'no doubt' US downed Iranian drone after Tehran's denials | Pentagon's No. 2 policy official to leave | Lawmakers worry about Defense vacancies MORE (R-Ky.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations MORE (D-Ill.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) questioned Sessions about his new policy.

“The Department’s policy is based on the premise that ‘it is of the utmost importance to enforce the law fairly and consistently.’ We agree,” the senators said.


“The problem is that, in many cases, current law requires nonviolent first-time offenders to receive longer sentences than violent criminals.”

It’s longer sentences like these, they said, that undermine respect for our legal system, ruin families and have a corrosive effect on communities.

Sessions’s marching orders marked a stark turnaround from the Obama administration, which urged prosecutors to reserve the harshest charges for violent criminals and the leaders of drug cartels.

In their letter, the lawmakers asked Sessions if he concluded the previous policy resulted in an unfair application of the law, if he conducted a review to study the effect of the proposed changes and if there are any criminal offenses carrying mandatory minimums that he views are unfair.

The senators also wanted to know how the department will decide whether to grant prosecutors’ requests to deviate from the order and if fewer cases will receive the same individualized assessments prosecutors were formerly expected to conduct before charging a defendant.  

Sessions was asked to respond within 30 days.