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Crime and Safety Task Force Recommendations Should be Made Public

The panel’s suggestions to Attorney General Jeff Sessions will likely result in changes to drug and immigration policy, and have already led to changes in civil asset forfeiture policy.

July 26, 2017

New York, NY — Today, Attor­ney General Jeff Sessions announced he has been receiv­ing and acting on recom­mend­a­tions from a Task Force on Crime Reduc­tion and Public Safety. 

The panel, created in Febru­ary under an exec­ut­ive order signed by Pres­id­ent Donald Trump, was asked to provide recom­mend­a­tions by Thursday, July 27. Task Force guid­ance already promp­ted changes last week in the Justice Depart­ment’s asset forfeit­ure policy. Based on recent comments by the Attor­ney General, other major policy changes could cover on marijuana and drug policy, immig­ra­tion, and senten­cing.

However, the admin­is­tra­tion has not commit­ted to publicly shar­ing the panel’s prelim­in­ary find­ings. Instead, Sessions revealed today that he will review and imple­ment their recom­mend­a­tions “on a rolling basis,” to coun­ter­act a “stag­ger­ing” rise in viol­ence in some cities.

“The Justice Depart­ment should publicly release these recom­mend­a­tions given the signi­fic­ant expec­ted changes in drug, senten­cing, and immig­ra­tion policy,” said Inimai Chet­tiar, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “Already they’ve led to changes on forfeit­ure policy that defy wide­spread consensus on best prac­tices. Many of the Depart­ment’s recent policy changes have been solu­tions in search of a prob­lem, and are only going to make our crime and mass incar­cer­a­tion prob­lems worse.”

“Sessions’ moves so far have mirrored archaic policies of the past, and there’s no reason to believe the task force’s recom­mend­a­tions will be any differ­ent,” added Ames Grawert, Coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “Rather than enga­ging in an open dialogue with reform advoc­ates and the wide array of lawmakers and law enforce­ment offi­cials who have reached consensus on a better way forward, Sessions is design­ing and imple­ment­ing a new drug war from behind closed doors.”

Sessions has already set the stage for drug policy changes, by lobby­ing Congress to ease restric­tions on federal marijuana prosec­u­tions, and meet­ing with cities that would be affected by a change in marijuana policy. He has also been a vocal supporter of Kate’s Law, which would increase mandat­ory minim­ums in some immig­ra­tion cases, and call for Congress to strip fund­ing from “sanc­tu­ary cities.”

For more on the Bren­nan Center’s analysis of the Admin­is­tra­tion’s crim­inal justice actions, see Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Record on Crim­inal Justice and Crim­inal Justice in Pres­id­ent Trump’s First 100 Days.

To set up an inter­view with an expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646–292–8316.

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