EWING, NJ - Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman issued the following statement on guidance issued yesterday by Attorney General Sessions that orders federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest charges and sentences for crime suspects, including those suspected of non-violent, low-level drug offenses:
“Coretta Scott King feared that the confirmation of Jeff Sessions would have a “devastating effect on the judicial system”, and with this recent guidance to federal prosecutors, that fear has been realized. I am disturbed at the enthusiasm of the Attorney General and this Administration to reinstate and enforce a policy will have no redeeming aspects on the rehabilitation of the prison population nor will make our communities safer. While in the New Jersey state legislature, I found that harsh mandatory minimum sentences do nothing to deter or lessen crime and fills prisons with nonviolent offenders at a great cost to taxpayers. Social justice advocates and experts, with the support of communities and lawmakers nationwide, have growing consensus that we cannot afford policies that are economically disastrous and ineffective.
Further, we must not overlook the relationship between the Attorney General, this Administration and the private prison industry. Attorney General Sessions’ directive to federal prosecutors raises suspicion of his desire to fill these facilities by any means necessary – an incentive that, in the past, incarcerated an entire generation in a disparate way. That’s why I introduced legislation that would require the termination of contracts with for-profit confinement facilities nationwide. We need criminal justice reform that is geared towards making communities safer and reducing our imprisoned populations instead of rolling back improvements we’ve made. The directive on sentencing, coupled with the president’s guidance to resume the use of private prisons, is just another illustration of how this Administration seeks to line the pockets of the wealthy and, clearly, has nothing to do with justice.
Criminal justice reform is yet another area for coordination and cooperation on both sides of the aisle but, this Administration is insistent on going in the wrong direction. The Department of Justice should be committed to acquiring the resources it needs to perform and complete a thorough and aggressive investigation into this Administration’s ties to Russia, inclusive of the Attorney General, instead of trying to refill our prisons on the backs of vulnerable communities.”