Dumb on Crime Memo
By Andrew Crane
U.S Attorney General Jeffery Sessions issued a memo that requires federal prosecutors to pursue the highest available sentence for low level, non-violent drug offenders. That is dumb on crime.
‘Low-level drug offenses’ include possession of small amounts of an illegal substance without intent of distribution. Personal use only! Sessions stated that the memo “confirms our responsibility to enforce the law and produce consistency”. How is this designed to target high-level drug traffickers and drug cartels?
Sessions claimed that the policy will grant federal prosecutors the freedom to pursue low-level, non-violent drug offenses as they deem fit. He stated that “they deserved to be unhandcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington.” The policy however does state that, if federal prosecutors need to pursue a lesser sentence for low-level drug offenses, they will need to seek the approval of the exception from a U.S attorney, assistant attorney or another supervisor. How does seeking Session’s approval for lighter sentences unhandcuff federal prosecutors? Isn’t that micromanagement?
This document nullifies the 2013 Holder memo, issued by U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, which required Federal prosecutors to use their judgment in regards to sentencing non-violent drug offenders. The objective of the Holder memo was to rightly reduce the U.S prison population and to provide fair sentencing to low-level non-violent drug offenders.
The motive of targeting non-violent drug offenses is in question by many. Holder referred to Session’s memo as “dumb on crime”, noting that the policy is based on the same ideology that brought on the ‘War on Drugs’ in the 1980s. Holder states that “turning back the clock to a discredited, emotionally-motivated, ideological policy also threatens the finances of the federal criminal justice system.” Sessions memo is virtually identical to policies during that 1980s war on drugs, which badly failed at stopping high-level drug traffickers. Holder has actually increased the number of convictions for high-level drug traffickers since 2013. Why did Sessions return to a failed policy?
Many in opposition to Session’s order believe that this new ruling will lead to racial injustices in regards to sentencing for drug-related offenses. Millions of Black and Hispanic citizens have been sentenced to unfairly long prison sentences compared to White citizens. However, the opposite may now occur! Due to the abuse of prescription drugs, there has been an opioid (painkilling heroin) epidemic that has swept through the U.S. Unlike the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, the opioid epidemic has mainly impacted the middle class White community, with opioid abuse sky-rocketing 114% among such adults. Opioid abuse has remained relatively unchanged in the Black and Hispanic communities.
Session’s order is another example of how President Trump’s administration will mainly harm the voters who elected him in the first place. States like Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia have topped the list of opioid-related deaths in 2015. These are also states that primarily supported Trump in the 2016 election. To add the icing on the cake, Session’s memo is in direct contradiction to Donald Trump’s promise to support treatment for drug addicts.
It goes without saying, prison does not seem like the most effective means of drug treatment.