Newsbrief: Ashcroft Says No Plea Bargains in Latest Bid to Send America to Prison Forever 9/26/03

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Attorney General John Ashcroft announced this week that he is ordering federal prosecutors to limit the use of plea bargains and to go for the throat in charging and sentencing defendants in criminal cases. The policy shift is only the latest in a series of moves by Ashcroft this year to make federal prison sentences harsher and to restrain federal judges who increasingly balk at sending low-level offenders to prison for decades. "Federal prosecutors must charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses that are supported by the facts," Ashcroft said in a memo to US attorneys released Monday. "Charges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to get a plea."

Under the new Ashcroft directive, plea bargains would still be permitted, but only if defendants agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations. The new guidelines also generously allow for plea bargains in cases where "the possible maximum sentence is unaffected by the agreement," when it appears the government is losing, or on a case-by-case basis with written approval from a supervisor.

The move comes on the heels of Ashcroft's efforts earlier this year to see the federal death penalty applied more broadly and to order prosecutors to appeal cases where judges have handed down sentences below federal sentencing guidelines. This latest policy shift is sure to further inflame the growing national debate over John Ashcroft's temperament and fitness to serve as Attorney General, a concern held not only by drug reformers and prisoner interest groups, but a growing number of organizations and individuals concerned about Ashcroft's behavior in both the war on drugs and the war on terror.

The Associated Press reported that when asked about his new policy in Milwaukee on Monday, Ashcroft described his goal as equal justice. "It's important that when the law is broken in Milwaukee, it's attended by the same consequences as when it's broken in Denver," he said.

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Issue #304, 9/26/03 Editorial: Patients vs. Prosecutors | Pain Doctor Arrests Provoke Backlash -- Group Urges FDA to Stop Cooperating With Justice Department | Cheryl Miller Memorial Project Does DC | Hawaii Meth Mania: Drug Summit, Media Push Target "Ice" | Playing It Smart: Sensible Seattle and the Winning of I-75 | Newsbrief: Dr. Hurwitz Indicted, Jailed in Campaign Against Pain Doctors | Newsbrief: MAPS-Sponsored Ecstasy Research Wins Final FDA Approval | Newsbrief: Rio de Janeiro Jails Stuffed With Drug Offenders | Newsbrief: UN Warns Stimulants "Public Enemy Number One," Cites Flawed Science, Attacks "Liberalization" | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Cannabis Tolerance Showing Up in India | Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Appeal BC Marijuana Legalization Ruling | Newsbrief: Drug War Sparking Death Squad Killings Again in Philippines | Newsbrief: Ashcroft Says No Plea Bargains in Latest Bid to Send America to Prison Forever | Newsbrief: Mandatory Minimum Sentences Unfair, Says Supreme Court Justice | This Week in History | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Errata: Last Week's Corrupt Cops Story | The Reformer's Calendar
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