We knew it was coming and on Thursday Jeff Sessions confirmed it: the Department of Justice has officially rolled back the Obama-era progress in criminal justice reform and is moving to lengthen drug sentences so that prosecutors enforce mandatory minimums in federal law. This despite the fact that under Obama, the move toward avoiding mandatory minimums in charging low-level and nonviolent drug offenders marked the first decline of the federal prison population in over a decade. But what’s the decline in the prison population matter to Jeff? Especially when it means less people of color locked up? Ol’ Jeff isn’t having it. Not at all. He’s all for returning us back to the days when getting caught with a dime bag of marijuana could get you life in prison.
In a memo distributed to federal prosecutors nationwide Thursday, Sessions said the department default in future cases will return to a previous policy of filing the most serious charge available against a defendant under the provable facts.
"It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," Sessions said in the directive, dated Wednesday.
Coincidentally this directive was issued around the same time that the White House was scrambling to explain its firing of FBI Director James Comey. Does anyone else find this timing extremely suspicious? As long as Sessions has the DOJ attention focused on revitalizing the war on drugs, they won’t be paying attention to investigating his ties to Russian officials—or so he thinks. And he’s got an incomprehensible rationale for this decision, including citing facts and trends that are made-up and inaccurate.
Speaking at an opioid-abuse summit in West Virginia Thursday, Sessions conceded that problem won't be solved solely by putting more people in prison but he insisted that tougher law enforcement is an essential part of the solution.
"It is a big, critical part of it," the attorney general said. "We’re on a bad trend right now. We've got too much complacency about drugs. Too much talk about recreational drugs," Sessions said, railing against what he called "the pro-drug crowd." [...]
While violent crime statistics have ticked up in the past couple of years, they remain near historic lows. There is a bipartisan consensus that certain forms of drug abuse are on the rise, particularly abuse of opioids and prescription painkillers.
He’s got one thing right, putting more people in prison definitely won’t solve the problem. And it’s telling (but not surprising, given that he’s a complete racist) how he’s suddenly developed an empathy to the opioid and prescription painkiller epidemic which is ravaging largely white communities. Where was this empathy several decades ago when crack-cocaine was ravaging the largely black and brown inner cities? Where was his talk about addiction and treatment programs then? His “one-size fits all, send all the black and brown folks to prison” approach is widely ineffective and costly for dealing with drug use.
Many experts say [mandatory minimum] laws and sentencing rules led to drug offenders spending decades in prison or even receiving life behind bars, when lesser sentences would have been adequate. The laws also ballooned the prison population, leading to costs that were unsustainable for some state governments.
"The Justice Department’s expected shift to prosecuting and incarcerating more offenders, including low-level and drug offenders, is an ineffective way to protect public safety," Brett Tolman, a U.S. Attorney for Utah under President George W. Bush, said in a statement anticipating the policy change. "Decades of experience shows we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of America’s drug problem. Instead, we must direct resources to treatment and to specifically combatting violent crime. This will help law enforcement do our jobs better.”
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is the most dangerous appointment in the Trump cabinet. Ineffective, corrupt, racist bigots have no place running the Department of Justice. And let’s not forget, he not only lied about his relations with Russia, he has sat back and watched as the president of the United States has continued to participate in a secret relationship with their government. He acts more like the attorney general of Russia, not the United States. He is not to be trusted. This war on drugs is just a cover-up. He should be the next to go and if he is not fired, he needs to be removed—immediately.