Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jeff Sessions, another (attorney) general fighting the last war

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a warrior in search of a battlefield. Unfortunately, he has the power to create one, even if the majority of the country he serves has decided that the war he thirsts for should not be fought, reported The Week.
With a two-page memo sent last week from the AG's office to the nation's 5,000-plus assistant U.S. attorneys, Sessions wiped away former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder's August 2013 directive, which ordered prosecutors to use discretion when bringing charges against defendants who did not have a history of violence, gang associations, or "significant criminal history." Holder's memo also instructed federal prosecutors to not purposefully pile on charges so as to trigger mandatory minimum sentences — which handcuff judges from exercising their own discretion — but to "evaluate these factors in an equally thoughtful and reasoned manner."
Sessions' Department of Justice (DOJ) will have no more of that thoughtfulness. Instead, America's "top cop" has essentially rebooted the war on drugs, a failed and devastating law enforcement strategy that remains unpopular with a majority of Americans (no matter their political affiliation) and that has only served to enrich drug cartels, unnecessarily divert law enforcement resources, and contribute to the tragedy of mass incarceration.
By affirming "a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," Sessions' memo turns back the clock and reimposes a "one size fits all" approach to federal prosecutions. The memo specifically cites the pursuit of mandatory minimum sentences as being part of its "moral and just" congressional mandate, and ludicrously states that treating all suspected criminals as harshly as possible no matter their individual circumstances "produces consistency."
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