Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates says it’s time to “move past campaign-style rhetoric” on the issue of criminal justice system reform.
Yates, who was fired by President Donald Trump after serving in the Justice Department for 28 years, penned a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences imposed at the height of the crack epidemic,” Yates wrote.
“Sessions’s new directive essentially reverses that progress, limiting prosecutors’ ability to use their judgment to ensure the punishment fits the crime,” Yates explained. “That’s a problem for several reasons. First, it’s fiscally irresponsible and undermines public safety.”
“Since 1980, the U.S. prison population has exploded from 500,000 to more than 2.2 million, resulting in the highest incarceration rate in the world and costing more than $80 billion a year. The federal prison population has grown 700 percent, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget now accounting for more than 25 percent of the entire Justice Department budget,” Yates warned. “That has serious public safety consequences: Every dollar spent imprisoning a low-level nonviolent drug offender for longer than necessary is a dollar we don’t have to investigate and prosecute serious threats, from child predators to terrorists.”
“Doing your job means you are not simply a reflection of someone else’s talents or opinions,” Yates told Harvard Law grads in May. “You’re the person to whom a leader turns when he or she needs to hear the truth.”