Press Releases

Conyers & Jackson Lee: Sessions Memo Doubles Down On Tragic & Counterproductive Sentencing Policies

Washington, DC, May 12, 2017

Today, the Department of Justice announced the issuance of memorandum from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors, establishing new policies for charging criminal offenses and seeking sentences when convictions are obtained.  The memorandum explicitly rescinds prior memoranda of the Department of Justice, which includes memoranda issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder.  In particular, Sessions’ memo specifically states that mandatory minimum sentences should factor in the determination of which is the most serious crime that can be and therefore should be charged, and directs that prosecutors must disclose to the sentencing court, all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences.  This directive reverses the policies, outlined in Eric Holder’s memo of August 12, 2013, that were designed to “ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers.” 

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) released the following joint statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that Attorney General Sessions has rescinded the fair-minded charging and sentencing policies instituted by former Attorney General Holder.  The prior policies represented a better approach, in recognition of the need to treat each case based on its unique circumstances and acknowledging the inequities that result from one-size-fits-all mandatory minimums.  We are particularly troubled that such a divisive, counterproductive and ill-informed memo would be issued without so much as a discussion or consultation with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus whose constituents are disproportionately targeted by this change in policy. 

“There is growing bipartisan consensus that mandatory minimums, which in drug cases are based on quantity and not culpability, are unjust and fiscally unwise.  We are suffering from a crisis of overincarceration, which harms public safety and is fiscally unsustainable.  The memorandum that the Attorney General has issued doubles down on sentencing policies that are tragic and counterproductive.  We urge the Attorney General to reconsider and work with us to develop a more fair and reasonable policy going forward.”