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 SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy 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 LeeZuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe McConnell warns Trump against withdrawing troops from Syria MORE (R-Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria Ana Navarro clashes with Rand Paul in fiery exchange: 'Don't mansplain!' MORE (R-Ky.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds DEA allowed more opioids even as overdose deaths rose | Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion law | Three states report more vaping deaths | Dem proposes new fix for surprise medical bills During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration 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.

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“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.