Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pushing back on bipartisan momentum to reduce the amount of people behind bars, issued a memo to prosecutors, calling on them to push for the “most serious” charges against people, hoping to trigger mandatory minimum drug sentences.
The memo is a direct reversal of the policy of his predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, who urged prosecutors to avoid draconian mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
“This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war.”
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“The last thing our country needs to do is go back to the ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ mentality that has made the United States the number one incarcerator of the world,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who served 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum sentence under New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws. “Jeff Sessions’ push for long mandatory minimums will destroy people, families and communities.”
This is the latest in a series of measures that demonstrate the intent of the Trump Administration to ramp up the drug war. Sessions has indicated that he will also reverse the Obama-era policy of allowing states to set their own marijuana policies, and head of Homeland Security John Kelly is using the war on drugs to persecute immigrants, pushing to deport individuals for simple marijuana possession.
“Congress has to act now and serve as a check on the egregious behavior of Sessions’ Justice Department,” said Collins. “Both parties and the public have expressed a desire in passing sentencing reform – we need to pass a bill on this now more than ever.”
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