Attorney General Jeff Sessions is recommending a judge on the U.S. Sentencing Commission that agrees with his “tough-on-crime” approach, and District Judge Henry “Hang ‘Em High’ Hudson is his pick, according to Thursday reports.
Sessions has been urging tougher sentencing across the board since his appointment, and the three vacancies on the U.S. Sentencing Commission represent further opportunity to push his agenda, the Wall St. Journal reported Thursday. The Sentencing Commission has more power to impact federal penalty guidelines than Sessions himself. Sessions hopes to reverse the soft-sentencing trend that took root on the commission under the Obama administration. Two of the vacancies can be filled by Republicans, but one of the spots belongs to Democrats.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to serve on the commission,” Hudson told the WSJ. “I’d like to make sure the guidelines are fair and consider every possible factor in a case.”
Hudson was also a candidate for FBI director after former Director James Comey’s removal, and he has a reliably conservative record, even issuing a 2010 ruling that parts of the Affordable Care Act were unconstitutional. Hudson’s main purpose on the commission would be to push for mandatory minimum sentencing. Sessions already issued an order to federal prosecutors this spring to pursue the harshest possible sentences in every case.
Under former President Barack Obama, the commission had reduced sentencing for drug offenders, allowing more than 30,000 to apply for shortened sentences. This is not an uncommon move, however, as states across the country pursued soft-sentencing reform under Obama and have continued to do so under the Trump administration. (RELATED: Jeff Sessions Alone Pushing ‘Tough-On-Crime’ Policy In Country Ready For Reform)
The Republican-controlled Louisiana House passed a massive 10-bill criminal justice reform package in May to decrease the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade, in part by reducing drug crime sentences. Oklahoma and Illinois have also followed suit this year.
Sessions’ own DOJ order is one of the few actions he’s been able to take to push his “tough-on-crime” policies, but with a more sympathetic Sentencing Commission, he may be to make more headway.
“That is the place where the biggest sentencing reforms have been made in Washington, in that nothing the White House or Congress has done comes close,” Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told the WSJ. “This little agency is a big deal and Sessions wants to exercise his influence, which is shaping up into a fight.”
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