By Pete Williams, nbcnews.com
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors this week to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses, in one of the clearest breaks yet from the policies of the Justice Department under the Obama administration.
The move is an abrupt departure from policy made by President Barack Obama’s attorney general, to reduce the number of people convicted of certain lower-level drug crimes being given long jail terms.
The change, “affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency,” Sessions said, in a memo to federal prosecutors written May 10 and made public Friday.
But former Attorney General Eric Holder, the architect of the Obama administration reforms, called Sessions’ move “unwise and uninformed” and warned it would “take this nation back to a discredited past.”
“The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It’s dumb on crime,” Holder said in a statement. “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.”