National Urban League Statement on Department of Justice New Regressive Charging and Sentencing Policy

May 15 2017

WASHINGTON, DC (May 15, 2017) – National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial issued the following statement on Attorney General Jefferson Sessions' announcement to reverse the Department of Justice’s Smart on Crime Initiative:

“The guidance issued to Department of Justice prosecutors late last week brings to bear our worst fears in having Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General of the United States as he wipes away the hard fought progress we’ve made in criminal justice reform and civil rights. In less than 100 days of assuming the position, Attorney General Sessions has condoned the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, cracked-down on profiling Muslim-Americans, and now instructed federal prosecutors to once again pursue the strictest penalties for low-level, nonviolent offenses.

“This deeply flawed policy from the Clinton and Bush eras is what led to the mass incarceration of millions of African Americans and Latinos, secured America’s position as the world leader of incarcerated individuals, and popularized the prison industry.

“Rolling back the policies of the Obama Administration, which sought to reduce harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and avoid triggering mandatory minimums, will have disastrous and irreversible effects on minority and poor communities--who for far too long have been disproportionately ensnared by our broken criminal justice system through policing bias and unfair sentencing.

“Over the past several years, civil rights and social justice organizations have worked together to bring light to this problem and to reverse discriminatory policies through federal reforms. And, for a short time, we felt that we were making some progress.

“However, this administration has made plain which American lives they value, and which they don’t, with the revival of this and other destructive policies that will have little impact on public safety but cause immeasurable harm to already marginalized communities.

“We call on lawmakers to pursue any and all legislative measures that will overturn this policy and permanently put an end to the mass incarceration of Black, Brown and poor people for nonthreatening offenses.”


Kezmiché “Kim” Atterbury | | (202) 629 -5750