Sessions Orders Longer Prison Sentences, Reversing Obama-Era Policy

Gladys Abbott
May 19, 2017

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing did a study on the effectiveness of mandatory minimums and says the cookie-cutter approach doesn't work, says executive director Mark Bergstrom.

On Tuesday, the freshman senator spoke carefully at the Center for American Progress' 2017 Ideas Conference about her time as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney's office and compared it to her present role; in 2016 Harris became the second black woman to be elected to the United States Senate. Since the 1980s, the number of people in US prisons has grown from 500,000 to 2.3 million with African Americans and Hispanics representing 58 percent of that population. Black people are overrepresented in these populations. By reducing sentences for drug crimes, these states have seen lower recidivism rates, lower costs to taxpayers, less crime, less incarceration and greater public safety.

The fear people feel about the epidemic of illicit drug use that has damaged so many families is real and understandable, and led to the failed war on drugs. They point out that USA attorneys will still have the ability to use their discretion on how hard to go after drug offenders. USA attorneys have considerable discretion as to what cases to bring.... And so when you bring the mandatory minimums, and you're talking five and ten years, and the impact on their family can be devastating.

We've witnessed the criminalization of black drug users for four consecutive decades.

Pat Nolan, a longtime criminal justice reform advocate who serves as the the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation's Center for Criminal Justice Reform, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that he feels Sessions' memo is a bit "misguided". In fiscal year 2012, Hofer found, "6,780 defendants convicted under drug statutes carrying a mandatory minimum penalty appeared to meet the memo's measurable criteria", but "most of these already receive [d] some form of relief from the mandatory minimum penalties". Clearly, Trump and his AG are committed to being very tough on all crime. Former President Obama and Holder got that. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, whose administration was heavily involved in its drafting and passage, signed the measure into law one year ago this week. The number of minimum mandatory sentences imposed plunged, and there was much more reliance on drug counseling and diversion programs for petty offenders. "Then, there's less money to go to violent, serious crime". It advises attorneys under his oversight to consistently charge and prosecute suspected offenders on "the most serious offenses", which he defines as "those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences".

The memo itself is about sentencing in general, rather than the Drug War in particular, but these two things are indelibly linked in our society.

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It was Nixon who in June, 1971, first declared a "War on Drugs". You understand what I'm saying?

Sessions' approach is a throwback that will make us less safe, and less moral and just. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.

He said he is glad to see the new policy does give individual USA attorneys discretion in applying the harshest possible penalties in drug crimes.

It would be remiss of me not to mention how unfairly these sorts of policies affect minority groups too. But, for one to truly believe in law and order while simultaneously believing that drug selling, usage, and possession requires incarceration, they must explain why drug abuse in predominantly white communities is now being framed as a healthcare issue, as opposed to a criminal justice problem.

Under former Attorney General Eric Holder, federal prosecutors were advised against taking the most severe course of action for certain low-level, non-violent drug cases.

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