Ethics and Democracy

Reining in Jeff Sessions


SUPPORT THE BIPARTISAN JUSTICE SAFETY VALVE ACT (S. 1127 and H.R. 2435)

We know that Jeff Sessions has a long record of racism, homophobia, hatred of immigrants, and disrespect towards women. He is also a leading opponent of commonsense reforms to mandatory minimum policies, preferring instead to keep chasing after the failed “tough on crime” approach of the 1980s and 90s. Even though crime is near record lows, Attorney General Sessions recently ordered prosecutors to go after the “most serious, readily provable offense” when prosecuting even low-level drug crimes. This is wrong.

Mandatory minimums take discretion away from judges and are a major contributor to the mass incarceration that affects so many communities across America, especially communities of color. It also carries a significant cost to lock up non-violent offenders for decades—for both the government and for families. This approach doesn’t make sense, and an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose it. But Jeff Sessions wants to double down on it anyway.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives have introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would allow judges to impose sentences below the mandatory minimum in certain cases. This lets judges out of the handcuffs Congress put on them during the failed War on Drugs and would give communities relief from the mass incarceration that tears families apart. Most importantly, it puts judges in charge of sentencing—not Jeff Sessions. Call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to support the Justice Safety Valve Act today.

Find your MOC’s number here

SAMPLE CALL DIALOGUE

Caller: Good morning/afternoon! Can you tell me if [Member of Congress] supports getting rid of mandatory minimum sentencing that leads to mass incarceration?

OPTION 1: YES, SUPPORTS GETTING RID OF MANDATORY MINIMUMS

STAFFER: Yes, [Member of Congress] agrees with you and thinks mandatory minimums are a bad idea.

CALLER: Great! I’m really glad [Member of Congress] agrees with me and an overwhelming majority of Americans. Mandatory minimums take away the discretion judges need to set sentences that make sense based on the circumstances of each individual case. Sentencing minimums have led to non-violent offenders needlessly spending decades behind bars. Will [Member of Congress] cosponsor the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bipartisan bill that empowers judges to go below mandatory minimums?

STAFFER: I’m not sure, but I will certainly pass along your thoughts to [Member of Congress].

CALLER: Please ask [Member of Congress] to cosponsor the bill and please take down my name and contact information so you can let me know when [Member of Congress] has officially signed on. Thank you!

OPTION 2: NO, WANTS TO KEEP MANDATORY MINIMUMS

STAFFER: [Member of Congress] thinks mandatory minimums are an essential tool in law enforcement’s toolkit to keep violent offenders off the streets and keep our communities safe.

CALLER: That’s terrible. Mandatory minimums are a relic of the failed War on Drugs. The U.S. spends over $80 billion a year on incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels. I would have thought [Member of Congress] would support a more fiscally responsible approach to this, especially since crime is already near historic lows in our country. [Member of Congress] should cosponsor the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bipartisan bill that empowers judges to go below mandatory minimums.

STAFFER: Yes, but look at cities like Chicago where crime is out of control, and we are also battling a drug epidemic in many parts of the country. [Member of Congress] wants to stay tough on crime.

CALLER: That’s wrong, and even law enforcement officials disagree. Experts across the board and even some Republicans in Congress think the opioid epidemic should be addressed as a public health matter and not a war on a drugs. The war on drugs and “tough on crime” policies like the ones Attorney General Sessions wants to keep pursuing do not work.

STAFFER: I will certainly pass along your thoughts.

CALLER: Thank you, and please take down my contact information in case anything changes. I hope [Member of Congress] does the right thing and cosponsors the bill.

OPTION 3: DODGES / HAS NO POSITION

STAFFER: I’m not sure where [Member of Congress] is on this. He/she has been focused on so many other things like creating jobs and reigning in the debt.

CALLER: That’s too bad. The U.S. spends over $80 billion a year on incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels and mandatory minimums do not work. We can’t trust Attorney General Sessions to do the right thing on this issue. Please ask [Member of Congress] if he/she will cosponsor the bill. Please take down my contact information and let me know if anything changes. Thank you!