Proposed Congressional Action
Proposed on May 16, 2017

Policy Summary

On May 10, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions put forth the “Department Charging and Sentencing Policy” for all federal prosecutors. The memorandum instructs all federal prosecutors to [1] charge and pursue the most serious readily provable offense and [2] disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences. On May 16, 2017, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the “Justice Safety Valve Act” which would give back to federal judges discretion and flexibility in imposing a criminal sentence. Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) have introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE


The policy announced by Attorney General Sessions was severely misguided. By requiring the most serious offenses to be pursued against a defendant and having him or her face a minimum mandatory sentence if convicted, the Attorney General has introduced nothing more than a formulaic application of the nation’s federal criminal laws. The traditional guidelines of proportionality, fairness, and rationality would no longer be relevant in considering how to sentence a person. Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the nonprofit group The Sentencing Project, issued a report that concluded mandatory sentences “exacerbate existing racial disparities” and that it is “unlikely that mandatory penalties…have a significant impact on enhancing public safety.” Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) said that their bill will “give discretion back to federal judges, so that they can consider all the facts, issues and circumstances” in order to tailor each sentence on a case-by-case basis. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact



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