Attorney General Becerra Urges U.S. Department of Justice to Rescind Harsh New Sentencing Guidelines

Monday, May 22, 2017
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Coalition Urges AG Sessions to Rescind Guidance and Requests Dialogue on Criminal Justice Reform

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and attorneys general from 13 other states in calling for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind harsh new instructions for Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors that would make our communities less, not more, safe. Building on California’s commitment to advancing forward-leaning values, the attorneys general also requested a meeting with Sessions to discuss smarter, data-driven approaches to criminal justice policy.

“I am deeply troubled by Attorney General Sessions’ decision to pursue ‘the most serious’ penalties in all cases,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We’ve been down that rigid path before and know it doesn’t make sense. In fact, we've seen the damage it can do, especially to young men of color, who are locked up at disproportionate rates. I will work hard with law enforcement leaders in California to ensure that we employ proven policies and the best practices to keep our people safe. Californians deserve to know that we’ve got their backs.”

“There is simply no evidence to support the notion that these kinds of tough-on-crime guidelines are effective at anything other than ballooning prison populations and budgets,” Attorney General Racine said. “We are urging Attorney General Sessions not to turn back the clock, but rather to look to a bipartisan consensus in support of smart policies associated with reductions in prison populations, declining crime rates, and lower costs to government.”

In a letter sent to Attorney General Sessions, the attorneys general write that “there is a strong and bipartisan national consensus that the harsh sentencing practices reflected in the new DOJ policy announced last week do not increase public safety, and that consensus is supported by strong data.” Additionally, they say that “the new DOJ policy runs contrary not only to this consensus, but also to basic principles of equal justice and sound fiscal policy.”

Joining Attorneys General Racine and Attorney General Becerra in the letter are attorneys general from Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state.

A copy of the letter is attached to the electronic version of this release at

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