May 12 (UPI) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable crime, a reversal of Obama-era policies.
The two-page order, sent to 94 U.S. attorneys across the United States, calls for 10-year mandatory sentences for possession of high amounts of drugs. In April, Sessions upgraded charges against immigrants suspected of attempted repeated entries into the United States to a felony, elevating the charge from a misdemeanor.
The new order rescinds sentencing guidance promoted by President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, which limited the use of mandatory-maximum sentences. Holder's directive came after the Justice Department said that 25 percent of its budget was used to maintain a large prison population of inmates convicted largely of drug crimes and given harsh sentences.
The number of sentenced prisoners in federal custody fell by 5 percent, or 7,981 inmates, between 2009 and 2015, a Pew Research Center study showed.
Sessions' order says that "that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" and later adds that "The most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences."