U.S.

Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy

Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy

In a two-page memo to federal prosecutors across the country, Sessions on Friday overturned former attorney general Eric H. Holder's sweeping criminal charging policy that instructed his prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants with offences that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences, reports The Washington Post.

"We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple", Sessions said.

In a letter to 94 USA attorneys Thursday night, Sessions called it a "core principle" that prosecutors charge and pursue "the most serious and readily provable offense".

"This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency", Sessions wrote in a memo to US attorneys made public early Friday.

The Sessions memo marks the first significant criminal justice effort by President Donald Trump's administration to bring back the toughest practices of the drug war, which had fallen out of favor in recent years with a bipartisan movement to undo the damaging effects of mass incarceration.

"They deserve to be unhandcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington", he said.

But other Republicans rejected that claim, saying drug use should be treated medically and that the department's policy shift would only deepen the nation's racial divide.

"This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us", the attorney general's memo says.




"It is an ideologically 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", Holder said.

Holder was instrumental in former president Barack Obama's effort to reverse a three-decade swelling of the prison population largely by black men arrested on minor drug and other offenses. "Is he also asking for the most serious charges there?" "Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business".

Officials say Holder's "Smart on Crime" policy "convoluted the process", and left prosecutors applying the law unevenly, which they said "is not Justice". If you want to collect a drug debt, you can't, and you don't, file a lawsuit in court.

Federal inmates represent a sliver of the overall US prison population of more than 1.5 million, according to Justice Department statistics. "You collect it with the barrel of a gun", Sessions said. It also requires prosecutors seeking a different sentence to get approval and make a case in writing.

The memo allows for "good judgment" by a prosecutor in cases that need to sway from the new guidelines.

But Holder said Friday that since he gave prosecutors more discretion four years ago, the number of cases carrying mandatory minimum sentences have dropped and the prosecution of high-level drug offenders had increased ─ without impacting the rates at which people cooperated with authorities or pleaded guilty. "It's dumb on crime", Holder said in a statement. In 2013, when the Obama administration changed policies, the population was at a staggering 220,000, causing an overcrowding in the prisons that was become too large to handle.

Holder's approach included legislation to reduce some mandatory minimum sentences. "Instead, we must direct resources to treatment and to specifically combating violent crime", said Brett Tolman, a former USA attorney in Utah. Social justice advocates and experts, with the support of communities and lawmakers nationwide, have growing consensus that we can not afford policies that are economically disastrous and ineffective.


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