Attorney General wants US to seek harsher punishments
The Trump administration wants to get tougher on crime and is calling for stronger charges and sentences against suspects.
“Going forward I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious readily provable offense," said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a speech at the Department of Justice last Friday.
The move reverses Obama administration policies overhauling the criminal justice system which urged prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.
“You don’t arrest your way out of drug problems," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is leading the fight against the opioid epidemic in Ohio.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Obama, blasted the policy change writing in a statement: "This is dumb on crime."
"Families don’t want their addict, their sister, their mother, their brother thrown into jail," said Sen. Brown. "They want treatment, that's where the effort should be, not building more jails and sounding like a tough guy and saying’ we are going to throw them all in jail that doesn’t make any sense."
But Republicans say the new directives gives prosecutors more options since they are no longer handcuffed by the policies under the Obama administration.
“We need to give the federal prosecutors as many tools in their toolbox as necessary. Certainly, one tool is to say we are willing to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," said Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland). "That doesn’t mean everyone is going to get the full sentence, but we certainly shouldn't take it off the table right up front when someone is charged and when we’re considering what charges to pursue."
President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have repeatedly said there is an uptick in violent crimes in big cities across the U.S. In 2015, the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found violent crime increased by 2.9% nationally and preliminary data for 2016 shows violent crime is up 6.3 percent. However, overall crime trends have fallen over the last two decades.
Currently, there are several bills in both the House and Senate would give federal judges flexibility to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums.