Published: Mon, May 22, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Sessions revives failed drug policies

It didn't change actual sentences.

Earlier DOJ Guidance that discouraged the federal prosecution of low-level drug offenders resulted in a 14% drop in federal prosecution of drug cases and a focus on more serious offenses and more risky offenders. "It is dumb on crime", The Washington Times reported.

"The opioid and heroin epidemic is a contributor to the recent surge of violent crime in America", Sessions said, according to The Spokesman-Review. They're responsible for only about 10 percent of the people behind bars in this country.

"T$3 he private prison industry stands to gain tremendously if he is confirmed as attorney general", the ACLU said. And Sessions said prosecutors maintain "discretion to avoid sentences that would result in an injustice". He added that this "will only perpetuate mass incarceration of poor, Black, and Brown people, the explosion of federal spending on prisons, and the mushrooming of our federal prison population". Critics say the Sessions approach is a return to failed drug war policies that disproportionately hurt minority communities.

Now, if prosecutors wish to pursue lesser charges for these low-level crimes, they will need to obtain approval for the exception from a USA attorney, assistant attorney general or another supervisor. All it will cost is the lives and livelihoods of regular, non-violent Americans, a disproportionate number of which will be minority and male. He says Sessions risks repeating "a vicious cycle of incarceration" at a time when crime rates are low. So Pfaff says the national stats aren't going to change that much because of this new policy.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations. He suggests filing "the most serious, readily provable" charges with include substantial punishment and mandatory minimum sentences. John Pfaff is an expert in sentencing policy at Fordham Law.

Since reaching its historic peak in 2013, reforms in drug prosecution and sentencing as well as the Obama administration's clemency initiative led to a significant decrease in the federal prison population, which had dropped 14% (to 188,800) by April 2017.

Sessions' policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of USA attorneys and assistant attorneys general.

"Abandoning this evidence-based progress and turning back the clock to a discredited, emotionally motivated, ideological policy also threatens the financial stability of the federal criminal justice system", Holder said.

"Charging and sentencing recommendations are bedrock responsibilities of any prosecutor". But Sessions' memo was exactly what many opponents of mandatory minimum sentences feared ─ and what advocates for the prison prison industry have been waiting for since Trump took office.

The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions' predecessors under President Barack Obama. "So when he talks about the war on drugs he always means marijuana", Strekal said. But Sessions has said a spike in violence in some big cities shows the need for a return to tougher tactics.

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