ACLU slams Sessions' policy on tougher charges

13 Mai, 2017, 21:25 | Author: Cyril Hebras
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes opening remarks during a Drug Enforcement Administration 360 Heroin and Opioid Response Summit at the University of Charleston Thursday

The Holder memo, issued in August 2013, instructed his prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants with drug offenses that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences.

There are a staggering 2 million people in the prison system today.

"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", Drug Policy Alliance Deputy Director Michael Collins told NPR. "There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted", Sessions wrote.

Black and Hispanic offenders were far more likely to be hit with mandatory minimum sentences than those of other races, a 2011 report by the US Sentencing Commission said.

"It's still going to boil down to the discretion of the prosecutor", said Peter Vaira, a former US attorney in Philadelphia.

Advocates quickly criticized the move as a revival of the worst aspects of the drug war that would subject nonviolent, lower-level offenders to unfairly harsh sentences. "But the social and human costs will be much higher". In a reversal from the previous administration, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the most severe penalties available in drug cases. "It doubles your chances of failure".

Former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, who was the top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Kentucky, said he was concerned that a multifaceted approach emphasizing prevention and treatment was being abandoned by the Trump administration.

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The "Sessions memo", which he sent Thursday night, replaces the so-called "Holder memo", which was issued in 2013 under President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder.

"We should treat our nation's drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" problem", Paul said in a statement released shortly after Session's announcement. Harvey said the intent was to give federal judges more flexibility in sentencing and reduce prison overcrowding.

And we know that drugs and crime go and in hand. Long sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation. "You collect it by the barrel of a gun", Sessions said.

Sessions' memo urged prosecutors to file "the most serious, readily provable" charges that carry the most substantial punishment, including mandatory minimum sentences.

But with this new directive, Attorney General Sessions is now implementing policies based on lies and misleading facts. It also requires prosecutors seeking a different sentence to get approval and make a case in writing. Harsher sentences for non-violent drug crimes cost taxpayers more money and waste limited resources that are needed to go after more unsafe, violent offenders who put the public at risk.

The Obama-era policies led to a sharp decline in the number of drug offenders hit with mandatory minimum sentences, from 62% in 2013 to 44% past year, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data compiled by a sentencing reform group, Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Currently, almost half of the federal prison population is already in custody for drug crimes. Almost half of those inmates are in custody for drug crimes, records show.

Do you think all drug offenders should be treated the same? The data showed that while they brought fewer indictments carrying a mandatory minimum sentence, the prosecutions of high-level drug defendants had risen and that cooperation and plea rates remained effectively the same.


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