The decision by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions requiring federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe charges possible, regardless of whether they would expose low-level offenders to mandatory minimums, represents not only a threat to public safety, but exacerbates mass incarceration.
“The Attorney General’s directive suggests that this long ugly era of mass incarceration now has eternal life. Contradicting commonsense, conscience, and experience of red and blue state governors, this new policy takes us quickly backward,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks.
Earlier DOJ Guidance that discouraged the federal prosecution of low-level drug offenders resulted in a 14% drop in federal prosecution of drug cases and a focus on more serious offenses and more dangerous offenders. Since reaching its historic peak in 2013, reforms in drug prosecution and sentencing as well as the Obama administration’s clemency initiative led to a significant decrease in the federal prison population, which had dropped 14% (to 188,800) by April 2017. The Sessions memo essentially guarantees a larger federal prison population, ensuring that money that would be better used on preventing crime will be spent imprisoning people who are no risk to the communities.
The NAACP released the following statement regarding the DOJ’s decision to promote the use of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.