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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Enacts New Drug Crime Policy
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Jeff Sessions

Summary: Attorney General Sessions has directed prosecutors to follow a new policy that seeks for the maximum sentence for any drug crimes.

Those with drug charges may have gotten off easy under the Obama Administration but Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear that those policies were no longer in play. Session ordered federal prosecutors to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses.

  
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Obama changed the policy to reduce the number of people behind stuck behind bars for long periods of time for committing low-level drug crimes. Sessions said in a memo that the change “affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is more and just, and produces consistency.”

Eric Holder, the former attorney general for Obama who designed the lenient policy, is obviously upset that his policy has been undone. Holder said, “The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.” His policy, coined “smart on crime,” directed prosecutors to not report the amount of drugs seized in an arrest if it would trigger mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders with no ties to gangs or drug cartels or selling to children.

Sessions urges the opposite. He suggests filing “the most serious, readily provable” charges with include substantial punishment and mandatory minimum sentences. He notes that the change is policy is in line with the Justice Department’s responsibility “to fulfill our role in a way that accords with the law, advances public safety, and promotes respect for our legal system.”

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Sessions attributes the need for a change in drug policy to the nation’s opioid epidemic and increased violence in big cities. He said, “The opioid and heroin epidemic is a contributor to the recent surge of violent crime in America. Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and you don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.”

The memo allows for “good judgment” by a prosecutor in cases that need to sway from the new guidelines. However, those exceptions have to obtain approval from top supervisors with documented reasoning so that that Justice Department can keep tabs on the handling of those cases. The memo further explains that prosecutors must still provide all the details to the judge even if they are not seeking a maximum sentence. The requirements “place great confidence in our prosecutors and supervisors to apply them in a thoughtful and disciplined manner, with the goal of achieving just and consistent results in federal cases.”



There are currently around 190,000 in federal prison, with about half of the population in prison for drug crimes. In 2013, when the Obama administration changed policies, the population was at a staggering 220,000, causing an overcrowding in the prisons that was become too large to handle.

Do you think all drug offenders should be treated the same? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about drug trafficking, read these articles:

Photo: flickr.com



 

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