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 SessionsLewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony 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 LeeMcConnell, allies lean into Twitter, media 'war' Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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.