Holder: Sessions’ new tough sentencing policy is ‘dumb on crime’

Jeff Sessions and Eric Holder. (Photos: Win McNamee/Getty Images – Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former Attorney General Eric Holder issued a scathing rebuke of the U.S. Justice Department’s new tough sentencing mandate, calling the policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions “dumb on crime.”

“It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety,” Holder said in a statement Friday.

Sessions outlined his new harsh sentencing policy in a memo to all federal prosecutors this week, beginning with the “core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.”

“By definition,” Sessions clarified, “the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

Though the attorney general’s memo did not refer to drug offenders specifically, his directive for prosecutors to pursue mandatory minimum sentences signaled a return to controversial drug-war-era policies that disproportionately targeted minority communities and packed federal prisons with small-time drug offenders serving lengthy sentences for low-level, nonviolent crimes.

The new policy is also a clear departure from the Obama administration’s efforts to reform drug sentencing procedures and reduce the federal prison population. In particular, it moves to reverse the policy outlined by Holder in a 2013 memo that sought to give judges more discretion to avoid mandatory minimums and issue lighter sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

In his lengthy statement, Holder called Sessions’ new directive “unwise and ill-informed” as well as “absurd,” and warned that such a reversal of course on recent sentencing reform “will take this nation back to a discredited past.”

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