Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy

Jeff Sessions Is Reversing Obama's Work With This Terrible New Policy

During the Obama era, federal prosecutors were instructed not to charge someone for a drug crime that would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence if certain specific factors were met: (a) the relevant conduct didn't involve death, violence, a threat of violence or possession of a weapon; (b) the defendant wasn't an organizer, leader or manager of others within a criminal organization; (c) there were no ties to large-scale drug trafficking operations; and (d) the defendant didn't have a "significant" criminal history, such as prior convictions. It has always been expected from Sessions, a former federal prosecutor who cut his teeth during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and who has promised to make combating violence and drugs the Justice Department's top priority.

Sessions noted that "there will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application" of the policy is not warranted, but that any exceptions must first be approved by a US attorney, assistant attorney general, or a designated supervisor.

Advocates warned the shift would crowd federal prisons and strain Justice Department resources.

Johnson said this mandate may take away from concentrating on serious larger criminals. "You had people who weren't able to be responsible fathers for their kids, who weren't able to serve a couple of years for making a mistake, then come home and do better". Even while in the Senate, Sessions repeatedly asserted that eliminating mandatory minimums weakened the ability of law enforcement to protect the public.

Sessions argued that a spike in violence in some big cities and the nation's opioid epidemic call for a return to harsher prison sentences.

The number of sentenced prisoners in federal custody fell slightly during Obama's time in office, reversing a decades-old trend of growth.

Johnson and Harvey said federal prosecutors should be focused on large-scale drug trafficking organizations and cartels, and they said they see signs that the Justice Department under Sessions would aggressively pursue those cases. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can't, and you don't, file a lawsuit in court. "You collect it with the barrel of a gun", Sessions said. Those rules limit a judge's discretion and are typically dictated, for example, by the quantity of drugs involved in a crime.

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"This is a key part of President Trump's promise to keep America safe", Sessions said.

Some prosecutors opposed Holder's directive, saying it deprived them of a tool for persuading drug crime defendants to plead guilty. Sessions defined the most serious offenses as those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence.

Holder released a statement Friday saying Sessions' stance "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".

"It doesn't do anything more in many incidents than increase the population of our prison system".

Obama officials cited that decline and a drop in the overall number of drug prosecutions as evidence that policies were working as intended. "Instead, we must direct resources to treatment and to specifically combating violent crime", said Brett Tolman, a former USA attorney in Utah. We will not allow the Attorney General to turn the clock back on federal criminal justice reform. Growing political and public hysteria had emerged with the introduction of crack cocaine into urban communities, leading to the adoption of harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drugs and their increased prioritization by prosecutors. "I trust our prosecutors in the field to make good judgements".

"They deserve to be un-handcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington", he said.

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