It seems U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is having way too much fun rolling back former President Barack Obama’s regulations on human rights.
A day after he rescinded the bathroom bill that protected transgender students, Sessions reversed a memo that placed guidance meant to reduce and ultimately phase out the use of private prisons. Now, he is moving forward with his plans to toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes – which means he might bring back the war on drugs with harsher sentences for low-level offenders.
In 2013, former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. instructed prosecutors not to charge defendants with sentences that would trigger mandatory-minimum sentences unless they were violent, were leaders in drug organizations, or met similar qualifications.
“Long sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Moreover, rising prison costs have resulted in reduced spending on criminal justice initiatives, including spending on law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and prevention and intervention programs,” read the memo.
The Holder policy did show some good results as the incarcerated population in the U.S. fell to its lowest level since 2004.The number of people in state and federal prisons also dropped by 2.3 percent.
Former President Obama was the first president in at least 40 years to leave office with a smaller federal prison system than he started with. However, it looks like President Donald Trump and his attorney general don’t like the positive results as they are planning to reverse those guidelines.
Sessions is also reportedly planning to introduce the harshest possible charges against all levels of drug offenders. Another practice which was halted by Holder’s memo, the widespread use of charging offenders with “enhancements,” is also reportedly being revived by Sessions. The practice can further lengthen sentences for certain defendants who have already been convicted of felony drug crimes.
Currently, more than 1.5 million people are incarcerated across the country.
The war on drugs has devastated the lives of millions of Americans. It has torn apart families, particularly black people and other people of color, in a vicious cycle of incarceration. A study by Pew Research Center shows black men are six times more likely to be imprisoned and jailed than white men.
However, people are coming forward and are opposing the draconian policy proposed by Sessions. From Louisiana and Texas to Pennsylvania and California, the movement to end mass incarceration is thriving in the states and in cities.
Jeff Sessions wants to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made on sentencing reform—and we must speak out against it. https://t.co/tHg3xag62t— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 12, 2017
Jeff Sessions's mass incarceration policy buys nothing more than tough-on-crime talking points at the cost of taxpayers and people of color. https://t.co/l3MRd7T7CZ— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) May 12, 2017
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters