There are about 190,000 people in federal prison, and sadly, this number could be growing again after years of decline. The anticipated growth comes in response to a recent announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has reversed the course of action regarding federal criminal charges and use of mandatory minimums.
Previously, federal prosecutors were encouraged to limit use of harsh mandatory minimum penalties, especially in cases involving non-violent, low-level drug offenders. However, Sessions is now directing federal prosecutors to do the opposite: to strictly apply mandatory minimum charging policies.
The memo from Sessions notes that certain people would not be targeted by this new policy, though they would not be immune to it. This includes those same people accused of low-level drug offenses without aggravating elements.
However, prosecutors are directed to seek mandatory minimums in cases where such sentences exist. Should a prosecutor decide to stray from this charging policy, the decision would "be subject to high-level approval."
Critics of the memo, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, argue that it reverses years of progress made in reducing prison populations and the cost of incarcerations. They also reiterated the fact that harsh punishments are not shown to be effective in cases involving non-violent, low-level drug offenders, and cookie-cutter approaches are similarly ineffective.
Sessions, on the other hand, maintains that his approach prioritizes consistency in the criminal justice arena. He also notes that his is a policy that makes full use of the tools afforded by Congress in penalizing offenders.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it will have an impact on anyone in Texas accused of a federal drug crime. It means that it is more likely that the prosecution is going to request the harshest penalties available in federal cases, and the stakes of defending yourself will be even higher.
If you are facing federal drug charges in Texas, talking to an attorney and mounting an aggressive defense will be critical in protecting your freedom and your future.