The previous administration was more concerned with getting drug users into rehab and decreasing prison populations than with sending drug dealers and drug users to prison for breaking the law.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2013 “Smart on Crime” initiative allowed considerable leniency when dealing with non-violent criminals who committed low-level crimes.
This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned that policy with a memo instructing US attorneys to “charge and pursue the most serious and readily provable offense” when dealing with criminal suspects.
These changes will ensure that prosecutors are “un-handcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington,” said Sessions during a speech on Friday. “We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple. If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct. “
The Sessions memo asks prosecutors to “disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences” – a major change from Holder’s policies, which instructed prosecutors not to disclose drug quantities to courts in order to avoid mandatory minimum sentences unless the defendant was a repeat criminal offender or gang leader.
Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition says Holder’s policies made America’s drug problem “one thousand percent worse,” especially in minority communities.
“What a legacy to leave, Mr. President…for the underserved African American community,” says Allen. “Now we have to fight through marijuana, fight through heroin, fight through opioids, because of the Obama Administration’s policies.”
Allen calls on President Trump to focus on prevention, and says Trump can “make America great again” if he can get drugs out of underserved communities and prevent them from getting into the hands of our youth.
The Sessions memo, which is the first major criminal justice effort by the Trump Administration, takes us away from leniency and back towards the tough practices of the War on Drugs. It also fulfills another campaign promise from Trump, who often criticized what he saw as “anti-law enforcement” policies by the former administration.
Opponents condemn the memo as a return to ineffective, harsh policies that will lead to mass incarceration. Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice, says the War on Drugs “devastated the lives and rights of millions of Americans.”
“The American people…want a common-sense reforms to sentencing policy, and not a return to the draconian policies that have already cost us too much,” argues Ofer.
But as Sessions pointed out during his speech on Friday, a tough stance may be the only way to correct the problem. “The murder rate has surged 10% nationwide…and we know that drugs and crime go hand in hand,” said Sessions. “Drug trafficking is an inherently dangerous and violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court. You collect it with the barrel of a gun.”
Author’s Note: Tough policies are necessary when dealing with tough problems. The Sessions memo will put more people in prison, and may make matters worse in the short term, but in the long run will help correct a problem that was exacerbated by Obama’s lenient criminal policies.
Editor’s Note: After 8 years of Obama’s policies of (in my opinion) encouraging drug use, and watching deaths from heroin use go through the roof, this problem seems almost insurmountable.