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July 18, 2015

"Prosecutors Rally Against Sentencing Reform, Say Build More Prisons"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new piece in U.S. News & World Report. Here are excerpts:

Nervous federal prosecutors attempted to rally opposition Friday to criminal sentencing reform in response to President Barack Obama’s week of issuing commutations and making pro-reform speeches....

“The federal criminal justice system is not broken,” Steve Cook, the association's president, said at a lightly attended event in the nation's capital. “What a huge mistake it would be,” he said, to change sentencing laws.

Cook predicted the crime rate would rise and prosecutors would lose a tool to extract information if laws were made more lenient. He also denounced reform proponents for saying nonviolent offenders are being ensnared by tough Clinton-era drug laws. “They have misled the public every time they say, 'We’re talking about nonviolent drug offenders,'” he said. “Drug trafficking is inherently violent. … If you’re not willing to engage in violence [then] you will be out of the business quickly, or worse.”

Cook said the small number of inmates whose sentences have been shortened by Obama – the president has issued 76 drug crime commutations total, 46 of them this week – shows there’s not much of a problem with people serving unreasonably long sentences.

Rather than focus on reducing sentences, he said, the government should consider building more prison facilities. “Do I think it would be a good investment to build more [prisons]? Yeah, no question about it!” he said....

Molly Gill, government affairs counsel at the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, says Cook’s assertion the crime rate would rise after sentencing reform is a “demonstrably false claim and a shameful scare tactic.” In Michigan, New York and other states, she says, crime rates did not spike after mandatory minimums were repealed....

Cook, who was joined by two other federal prosecutors, made much of his speech Friday about societal ills associated with drug addiction, from babies going through withdrawal to people stealing from their families and dying from overdoses and car accidents. “There’s a pyramid of individuals who are affected by [drug dealers],” he said. “Many view [drug trafficking] as more serious than murder.”

He declined to say if state-legal recreational marijuana businesses and regulators in Colorado and Washington state should face marijuana-related mandatory minimums for breaking federal law.

Cook’s colleagues did not speak at the news conference. He described the event as the first of its kind by the group, which claims to represent 1,500 assistant U.S. attorneys, about 30 percent of the total.

Former President Bill Clinton, one of the leaders responsible for establishing inflexible penalties, this week said doing so led to the imprisonment of a lot of "minor actors for way too long." The association views his reversal as “misinformed,” Cook said: “We think he was right before.”

July 18, 2015 at 10:44 PM | Permalink


The prosecutors are right when they say that "drug trafficking is inherently violent." Those with the longest sentences are, for the most part, big pdealers. Even though they may not have been charged with a violent crime themselves, they were part of a criminal conspiracy which is exceptionally violent. They deserve their long sentences.

There will be cases in which a sentence is unduly long. That is why we have clemency. If you want me sympathize with some particular individual who is serving a long sentence, fine. Tell me his story and I might agree. But wholesale reduction in sentences for "nonviolent" drug dealers? No.

Posted by: Gary | Jul 19, 2015 8:57:13 AM

Get rid of prosecutors and let the community (the people) decide.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Jul 19, 2015 11:33:01 AM

and workhouses too!! bah humbug!

Posted by: Joe | Jul 19, 2015 11:35:00 AM

Prosecutors are at will employees who will do what the political hack running their office tells them to. Or they may be fired for no cause or even for an unlawful cause.

Biggest beef? 2 million prosecutions. 20 million FBI index felonies, which do not count drug dealing. They are irrelevant to crime with that 90% chance of never being inconvenienced by the law if one commits a serious crime.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 19, 2015 12:27:38 PM

How noble to bleat about their altruistic compulsion to save society from dangerous drug dealers. What the prosecutors more probably are worried about though is losing the hundred-ton lever they routinely use to coerce confessions: excessively long guidelines prison terms for all manner of offenses...mandatory minimums and special sentencing enhancements notwithstanding.

Prosecutors and former prosecutors (judges and lawmakers) have ruled the criminal justice roost for decades. The noise these modern era javerts are hearing now on the left is a call for a little more balance in the justice system. What they hear on the right a desire save piles of money being spent primarily to make prosecutors' jobs easy peasy.

Because let's face it, if sentences go back to being merely fair and appropriate -- as opposed to "tough" -- prosecutors might have to go back to the drudgery of preparing cases capable of withstanding scrutiny by juries. More even-handed prison terms would mean fewer coerced plea deals. Fewer leveraged confessions would mean more trials.

Imagine the blow that would strike to wins-losses focused, career-climbing Justice Department prosecutors and you begin to understand why the reform proposals are causing such a fuss.

Posted by: John K | Jul 19, 2015 12:49:50 PM

I am all for building "better" prisons such as Prison "Cupcake" as long as ALL the funds come from the prosecutor's and judge's salary and pension budget - absolutely no exceptions. Let them have some real, non-political skin in the justice game!

Posted by: albeed | Jul 20, 2015 7:13:04 AM

The headline is misleading. Only 30 percent of assistant U.S. attorneys are members NAAUSA. I don't see a strong grassroots movement against sentencing reform among federal prosecutors. I expect many AUSA's share the views of Steve Cook (who is an AUSA)but it is not as though droves of prosecutors are turning out at protest rallies.

Posted by: Bryan Gates | Jul 20, 2015 12:18:44 PM

That's interesting that the NAAUSA only represents 30% of assistant US attorneys. That would mean that a majority of the NAAUSA membership may represent only 16% of the total of these fine government employees.

Posted by: beth | Jul 20, 2015 9:27:36 PM

Prosecutors are a strange bunch. They get ahead by trampling on defendants.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 20, 2015 9:52:40 PM

I Have Always Suggested, A Prosecution is an Opportunity to Destroy the Lives of Prosecution, and to Bankrupt a Department. Always Attack on Behalf of Your Innocent or Persecuted Client. No One Listened.

Except here, likely for $million. For that, you get the full defense counterattack. It is weak compared to proposals.

Start with total e-discovery of all personal and work computers of all prosecutors and of all supervisors. Report all child porn to the FBI. Let the enemy explain why those files were accessed at 11 PM one evening. The biggest downloader of child porn, and the subscriber keeping the crime syndicates of Eastern Europe in the business of producing child porn. So there should be plenty to find and to report on any prosecutor computer.

They are all anti-male, and anti-white, so all utterances to that effect should result in motions to dismiss, and in reporting the Inspector General.

Next, they should be vilified in all aspects of their private lives. This is fair, because the left always does that, and uses the IRS to destroy its sincere adversaries. Bring it to the houses of the people seeking to destroy the life your innocent client. Organize a boycott by all service and product providers, including doctors.

Maybe that is the $5 million defense.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 20, 2015 10:33:24 PM

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