The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) plays an important role in the federal criminal justice system, including the following:
- Setting policy on how federal criminal cases are charged and prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney General in Washington, DC is in charge of the DOJ and oversees the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country that employ thousands of federal prosecutors. The Attorney General directs prosecutors how cases should be charged, including how and when mandatory minimum sentences should be used.
- Providing federal monetary grants to many state, local, and Tribal organizations and governments for hiring police, investigating crimes, and other public safety projects.
- Managing the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), which houses, feeds, clothes, and provides medical care, drug treatment, and rehabilitative programming to federal prisoners. The BOP also transitions prisoners into home confinement and halfway houses at the end of their sentences and decides which prisoners should receive a “compassionate release.”
- Assisting the president with granting commutations and pardons. The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) reviews pardon and commutation applications and makes recommendations to the White House on which applicants should be granted and denied.
FAMM influences DOJ and BOP policies on charging, sentencing, and managing prisoners by meeting with top officials, providing research and input on rules and procedures, and urging Congress to hold these agencies accountable with hearings and investigations. Specific DOJ and BOP policies that FAMM works on include:
- Charging Policies: In May 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed a previous policy and ordered federal prosecutors to charge people with the most serious crimes carrying the longest punishments, including mandatory minimum sentences. FAMM opposes this approach because it means more low-level offenders will get lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, which increases prison overcrowding and costs but does not make us safer.
- Compassionate Release
- BOP Policy Changes
- Prison reform: FAMM is urging BOP to give prisoners meaningful rehabilitative programming and keep prisoners closer to their families, so they have better chances of success when they come home.
- Staffing: FAMM opposes efforts to cut BOP staff. Sufficient numbers of staff are needed to safely manage prisons and provide rehabilitation.