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Jeff Sessions Is a Glutton for Punishment

The attorney general wants prosecutors to maximize penalties for drug offenders, regardless of the threat they pose.

As a senator, Jeff Sessions helped kill bipartisan legislation that would have made federal drug penalties less mindlessly draconian. As attorney general, he seems determined to make those penalties as disproportionate as possible, instructing federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious provable charges without regard to culpability or dangerousness.

That policy, announced in a memo last week, reverses a Justice Department initiative that sought to spare low-level, nonviolent drug offenders the five-, 10-, and 20-year minimum sentences that are supposedly aimed at ringleaders and kingpins. The shift signals a return to unfair, ineffective drug policies that have been rightly repudiated by politicians across the political spectrum.

The current mandatory minimums sentences for drug offenses, which Congress enacted during the "Just Say No" era that Sessions remembers fondly, are tied to drug weight, which is often a poor indicator of a defendant's role in a criminal organization or the danger he poses. "Crafted purportedly for sharks, mandatory minimums catch lots of minnows," notes Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which points out that "93 percent of individuals who receive mandatory minimum sentences played no leadership role in their offense."

In 2013 Attorney General Eric Holder tried to ameliorate this injustice by urging federal prosecutors to omit drug weight from charges against nonviolent offenders who did not have leadership roles, significant criminal histories, or significant ties to large-scale drug trafficking organizations. Largely thanks to that policy, the share of federal drug offenders facing mandatory minimums fell from 62 percent in fiscal year 2013 to less than 45 percent in fiscal year 2016.

The upshot of that trend was substantially shorter prison sentences for thousands of minor drug offenders. During this same period, the bloated, over-capacity federal prison population, which grew steadily from 1980 through 2013, began to shrink, although that change had more to do with shorter crack cocaine sentences that Congress approved in 2010.

How does Sessions, who supported the 2010 reforms, justify his belief that Holder went too easy on drug offenders? "Drugs and crime go hand in hand," he told a police group in New York City last Friday. "Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business."

There is nothing inherently violent about the sale of psychoactive substances, as a trip to your local liquor store will confirm. Drug trafficking is violent only because the government makes it so by creating a black market in which there are no legal ways to resolve disputes.

In any case, the observation that drug offenders are sometimes violent does not justify the assumption that any given defendant is. Holder's policy made sensible distinctions that Sessions pretends do not exist.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), another prominent opponent of sentencing reform, is equally oblivious. Responding to Sessions' memo, Cotton said, "I agree with Attorney General Sessions that law enforcement should side with the victims of crime rather than its perpetrators."

That stance obscures the difference between peaceful, consensual transactions that violate no one's rights, such as the exchange of drugs for money, and predatory crimes with specific, identifiable victims, such as robbery and murder. Even if you don't think this distinction makes drug prohibition inherently unjust, it is surely relevant in deciding what punishment someone deserves.

The practical impact of Sessions' memo will depend on how federal prosecutors around the country respond to it. But by establishing a new default rule from which prosecutors are supposed to depart only with permission from their supervisors and a written justification, Sessions is pointing the way to longer prison sentences for many people who pose no real threat to you or me.

True conservatives understand there is a point at which the cost that incarceration imposes on taxpayers, defendants, their families, and their communities exceeds any conceivable public safety benefit. As Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a leading advocate of sentencing reform, observed on the day Sessions' memo was announced, "To be tough on crime we have to be smart on crime."

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    That policy, announced in a memo last week, reverses a Justice Department initiative that sought to spare low-level, nonviolent drug offenders the five-, 10-, and 20-year minimum sentences that are supposedly aimed at ringleaders and kingpins. The shift signals a return to unfair, ineffective drug policies that have been rightly repudiated by politicians across the political spectrum.


    The memo states when federal prosecution is determined appropriate, federal prosecutors should ensure the individuals driving violent crime in their district are prosecuted using the tools at their disposal, which may include firearms offenses, including possession and straw purchasing offenses; possession of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime or drug trafficking offense; Hobbs Act robbery; carjacking; violent crime in aid of racketeering; Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and drug offenses under the Controlled Substances Act, among others.
    This is why the media is not believed. The memo is geared toward violent crime.

  • geo1113||

    In the mind of Jeff Sessions, if you buy a joint, you are driving violent crime.

  • JH||

    You just affirmed why the media should not be believed.

  • Konima||

    lol at this guy claiming that I don't know his voting preferences, and that he didn't vote for Trump, all the while defending Trump and Sessions in every post that I see from him. Sessions is genuinely indefensible for anyone reasonable. Congrats on dropping your mask.

    It's the media's fault though. Got it. Everything that happens somehow comes back to the media.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I voted for Gary Johnson because I wanted the Libertarian Party to get their numbers up.

    I find myself defending against TDS and clearly it bothers you.

    Sessions is not one I like and I don't think he will last long before being asked to resign. He is an old drug warrior and times have changed. This memo is NOT what the media is saying it is and that's the point I wanted to make.

    The media does not cover what is happening with Sessions' policies in the field and police arrests regarding drugs because they are too busy making up crazy stuff about Trump.

    I support enforcement of law. I also support less police in the field and more guns for citizens to protect themselves.

    Nice mask you got there, its all Libertarian-y.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Contarded contard. Go back to the FEderalist. Contard.

  • VicRattlehead||

    You have only supported the law when you agree with it, if another law exists that supersedes it (like the constitution) you ignore it completely in favor of bootlicking
    Gary "Nazicakes" Johnson is the problem with the LP, he was just as much of a nanny state goon as his gun banning VP

  • Deven||

    I think you should read the memo again.

    Drugs can easily be considered drivers of violent crime by these people.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Police are out of control but the memo seems to want law enforcement to focus on violent criminals. That was my point.

    What the police do outside the scope of the memo is why police are generally too militarized and out of control.

    Drugs are illegal and most Libertarians support enforcement of drugs laws. Lets get drug laws repealed.

  • Tionico||

    Government, particularly at the Federal level, have NO business deciding for me what I may/mayn't put into my body. Name the place in our Constitution that provides any grounds for FedGov to make such decisions. Article, Section, Paragraph, sentence.

    So, while possession/use/trade in marijuna may be, per letter of law, "illegal", it should not be. It is NOT a Schedule One substance. Never was. If that were removed from the CSA, pressure to include the nastier ones in the same channels of trade would greatly reduce..... as proven in most areas where marijuana has been legal for some time.

    Further, most libertarians DO NOT SUPPORT enforcement of drug laws. They hold that you and I are the ones competent and qualified to make such decisions for myself as to whether I will use marijuana, or the others. (Personally, I have made a choice to NOT USE them, but I will fight for YOUR right to use them IF YOU so choose.

    Yes, those unconstitutional drug laws MUST be repealed.. the courts have wrongly allowed them to stand for far too long. Legislation is the other way of taking them down.

  • The Divine Reactionoid||

    Imagine if your cock still worked...
    You could be actually masturbating again,
    instead of whatever that was.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The memo states when federal prosecution is determined appropriate, federal prosecutors should ensure the individuals driving violent crime in their district are prosecuted using the tools at their disposal, which may include firearms offenses, including possession and straw purchasing offenses; possession of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime or drug trafficking offense; Hobbs Act robbery; carjacking; violent crime in aid of racketeering; Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and drug offenses under the Controlled Substances Act, among others.

    [Emphasis added]

    "driving violent crime": As far as Sessions is concerned any drug transaction is viewed as "driving" violent crime. Even if there is no actual violence during a given sale of drugs, as far as he's concerned the sale of drugs "drives" violent crime because drugz r bad, mmm'kay.

    "violent crime or drug trafficking offense": That "or" there is pretty important, don't you think?

    "Hobbs Act robbery; carjacking; violent crime in aid of racketeering; Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and drug offenses": The "and" here would seem to indicate that drug offenses are a separate category of crime from the other crimes listed here. The irony here is that while it's obvious from Sessions' own previous statements and record that he considers drug trafficking to be "inherently violent" he can't even keep up the pretense.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    This is why the media is not believed. The memo is geared toward violent crime.

    No it isn't.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yes it is. Violent crime that includes drug offenses....

  • Tionico||

    but the memo says "violent crime OR drug offenses". That means they are two separate things, both considered "violent".

  • VicRattlehead||

    Violent crime? like the police braking down the doors of homes and immolating infants with incendiary devices? or when they kill the family pet because they got the wrong door but still feared for their lives because theyre worthless pants shitters?
    nope
    he means implied violent crime, as in you have the demonweed it is an act of violence, the guy is just too old to do this job and needs to find a rock to go crawl under.

  • Tionico||

    Friend of mine is a legally operating producer, processor, and distributor of marijuana, legal in his state of residence, though remaining illegal under unconstitutional federal law (Controlled Substances Act insanely lists this as Schedule One) He is also lawfully able to own, and carry about upon his person, a handgun, which he does, and has done, since long before marijuana was legalised in his state. IF FedGov were to decide to, they COULD technically arrest him for the lawful trade in which he engages in his home state. IF he happened to have his personal defensive weapon upon him at that time, he COULD also be charged with the felony of being in possession of both a firearm and marijuana. He is harmless as a fly.. and in fact, was involved in an armed robbery attempt, a stranger pulling a gun on HIM in order to rob him. My friend is VERY skilled, and drew his own weapon so fast, had it pointed at the criminal's face so fast, the guy backed down and left. So now he has this dilemma... continue his chosen line of work, legal in his state, be at risk of federal prosecution, on one hand, AND make the unpleasant choice between doing so armed, risking a serious felony charge, or not, rising death at the hand of the next armed robber decides he's an easy mark.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    LoveCon
    Your link to The FEderalist is broken.
    Pants-shitting goes over better with the contards there.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Jeff Sessions: the asshole's asshole.

  • steve walsh||

    Sessions is criticized, no vilified, for advocating for the uniform and consistent enforcement of the law as passed by Congress and signed by the President. Do I have that right?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Sessions is rightly criticized for, within his own discretion, pushing to impose the maximum possible sentences on people for non-violent crimes as well as violent ones due to a category error. The man actually is a villain.

  • chipper me timbers||

    "Do I have that right"?

    Yes. Both the legislature and the executive branch can be vilified or things you know.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Steve,
    You're an idiot. That's what we have right.
    Where did all the contarded contards get this talking point?

  • chipper me timbers||

    Sessions is the one truly terrible and evil thing about the Trump presidency so far, but all the news is about contradictions in his Tweets and firing Comey and being too friendly with Russia. wtf. Sessions is going to fuck over actual Americans in a real way.

  • The Divine Reactionoid||

    Yes his hair is orange... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You totally stuck it to President Rich Guy! He's probably going to cry now into his monogram towels like big orange clown, then try to console his bruised ego with cheeseburger, model wife and TV bigger than both our house. I bet you feel so better than him... me too! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I've never ever been on a private plane! LOL

    So funny we don't have as money as rich as him! So funny we don't ever have beauty pageants or hotels or casinos or elected to be President of USA! Right? Laugh at his funny hair and make us feels better! Not shallow at all for us at all, bigotry is bad but other physical appearance mockery is sign of deep intellect and class! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Seriously, you're pathetic. HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • VicRattlehead||

    ^ Signed,
    bootlicker mcstatist

  • JH||

    It is interesting to note how the most outspoken about this were not alive, or old enough, to know what it was like before the stricter sentencing guidelines were passed in Congress and in every state, in response to public demand at the time. In response to the "minnows" comment, if your crime rises to the level of federal prosecution, you did something serious. Most people also don't realize in rising to this level, 95% of the time there are also firearm charges and 100% of the time, other federal felonies are involved. These are normally dropped as a matter or course to save time and money in federal prosecutions as well as part of plea negotiations, partially due to the sentences drug convictions afforded.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yeah, like selling a pound of pot which is illegal. Ignore the law!

  • marshaul||

    Yeah, like enforcing obviously unconstitutional laws merely because they are on the books. Worship the law!

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Contarded contard is contarded.

  • Longtobefree||

    No more hanging, sorry.
    The way to deal with drug dealers, including the purveyors of the devil weed is to inject them with drugs. (?)
    Really, I can't make this stuff up.

  • Tionico||

    per fed law as written, ANY possession of marijuana is a federal offense subject to this new policy. Remember, it is the FEDERAL Controlled Substances Act that lists this as a Schedule One substance, which it certainly IS NOT. Thus, any possession is against THAT specific law, and actionable.

  • Tionico||

    I was alive, and aware, when those minimum sentences were put into law. Most of the "public demand" was the direct result of massive media propaganda (ever see that hilarious flick "Reefer Madness"? WE all knew that was bogus at the time, some even thought it was a send-up by Mad Magazine or something similar. I had never smoked the stuff at that point in my life, and I KNEW it was bogus. Much of the real violence came simply from, as the article mentioned, the situation that any trade in the stuff was illegal, thus when someone got ripped off by another, there was no legal recourse. "Hey, Charlie threatened to bash my chops if I didn't surrender my just-bought Dime Bag, so YOU (officer) need to go arrest him for theft" If said officer DID go find Charlie to arrest him, it would NOT be for the theft, but for what he now had in his pocketses AFTEr the theft. For that Charlie would soon be laying out ten years. For having a bag of vegetable greens in his pocket, NOT for the mugging. So, real crime proliferated. The nasty stuff, heroin, coke, acid, etc, was no more illegal than Miss Mary Jane, so it might as well hop on board and ride along too. THEN the "drug trade" began to destroy lives and communities because of the association-by-distribution-system that distributed it. As that proliferated, so did the REAL gangland tactics, "values", tools.....

  • b4integrity||

    "The nasty stuff, heroin, coke, acid, etc,"

    Really? Who made you arbiter of "[t]he nasty stuff"?

    Why are the two most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs when ingested, the hard drugs tobacco & alcohol, not considered by you as being the most nasty of "[t]he nasty stuff"?

  • Robert||

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I don't know how it is now, but in the late 20th C. some narcotics offenses were tried federally to take the load off state courts. But the usual rule has been that the feds aren't interested in the low level cases.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You can be a Libertarian and support the Constitution and support rule of law. Illicit drugs are currently illegal under federal law.

    I know DonA, rule of law is not your strong suit. You lefties like to make up stuff as you go and maybe not enforce this law or that law but keep adding more and more laws.

  • MichaelL||

    Why would someone like you assume only the "lefties" feel this way about enforcing bad laws?! Not all of us on the "right" believe the way Mr Anslinger did, when he started this garbage. I believe no form of prohibition helps, except filling federal prisons! Why should we continue with a program that has not decreased drug price, availability, (especially to our kids) or addiction rates among the population for nearly one hundred years? I don't understand where fighting the drug war is a Libertarian idea.

  • Tionico||

    IF you are what your name indicates you might be, WHY are you supporting the enforcement of a law passed NOT in accord with the Constitution? Take out your copy and READ it. (you do have one, don't you? If not shame on you, GET ONE and read it). Now, after you've done, come back on here and quote the Article, Section, Paragraph, where FEDERAL government are granted any authority over what we do/do not put into our bodies. Next, show us where FedGov have any authority for Fed agents to be enforcing criminal law. Drug "laws", being not in accord with the Constitution, are NOT law at all,. They name and define activities not addressed in the Constitution and treat them as crimes, then Fed agents are sent to enforce those illegal laws.

    And you "love" the Constitution? All of it? (its an all or nothing deal.....)

  • marshaul||

    You can be a Libertarian and support the Constitution and support rule of law. Illicit drugs are currently illegal under federal law.

    No you absolutely cannot, you vile, mendacious fuck. You cannot "be a Libertarian and support the Constitution" while clamoring for the ipso facto enforcement of obviously unconstitutional laws.

    Please feed yourself to the nearest convenient wood chipper.

  • marshaul||

    (That is to say, the enforcement of obviously unconstitutional laws simply because they are "laws", despite SCOTUS precedent to the effect that unconstitutional laws are null and void before the court declared them so. "loveconstitutions" authoritarian premise that bad laws must be enforced so long as they are on the books is itself, objectively unconstitutional.)

  • VicRattlehead||

    "You can be a Libertarian and support the Constitution and support rule of law......"
    No you cannot
    the law is illegal under the law
    the enforcement of said law is a direct imprisonable offense because it is violating the rights of citizens under the color of law
    the support of the enforcement of this law is not compatible with support for the enforcement of the constitution and therefore makes you an enemy of the constitution

    you are a republican goon like gary johnson and bill weld who are also not libertarian

  • No Yards Penalty||

    DanO,
    Exactly.
    Don't have to scratch too deep around here to find the fauxbertarians are actually authoritarian contards.

  • Lester224||

    Former sessions aides are now lobbyists for the private prison industry. He has friends there he wants to fatten.

    https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/02/27
    /follow-money-former-sessions-
    aides-lobbyists-private-prisons-group/

  • jbsnc||

    While generally a strong supporter of Trump, I have two big problems with Jeff Session. Civil Asset Forfeiture and 'harsh' drug related sentences. Asset Forfeiture will turn into a major 'criminal' activity. Politicians and money collection are extremely risky. I trust the man next door more than the average politician by a large margin. The War On Drugs has been an over hyped mistake. Getting kingpins is one thing, getting the average deal and or user is entirely different. I would no allow Sessions an office in my administration.

  • Porque||

    My main problem with him is that he is breathing, and secondly, his employer has not been eradicated!

  • Restoring the Dream||

    Just for the hell of it, could somebody point to the delegated power of the federal government to make drugs illegal?

  • Tionico||

    Go find one of those "umbras" and pick it up by the northeast corner and see if maybe its not hiding under there. If you don't find it there, wander about until you trip over one of those penumbras, and this time try the southeast corner. You'll surely find it under there.

  • Robert||

    They say it's a combination of the powers to regulate interstate commerce & to adopt laws necessary & proper to carry out the effect of such powers. Supposedly in order to have that power over drugs, they need to be able regulate anything that can affect interstate commerce in drugs if they do so as part of a comprehensive nat'l scheme of regul'n. Regul'n entails making certain actions illegal, such as having drugs w/o gov't permission.

    Interesting that they've applied that only to controlled substances, not to drugs generally. The CSA refers to "anyone in any state", while the FFDCA concerns only drugs intended for interstate commerce. Of course the states have the same provisions regarding drugs in their respective state, so it doesn't matter. It usually wouldn't matter re the federal law either, because for the most part the states adopted those controls before the feds, & w the recent exception of mj, have kept them.

  • Robert||

    They say it's a combination of the powers to regulate interstate commerce & to adopt laws necessary & proper to carry out the effect of such powers. Supposedly in order to have that power over drugs, they need to be able regulate anything that can affect interstate commerce in drugs if they do so as part of a comprehensive nat'l scheme of regul'n. Regul'n entails making certain actions illegal, such as having drugs w/o gov't permission.

    Interesting that they've applied that only to controlled substances, not to drugs generally. The CSA refers to "anyone in any state", while the FFDCA concerns only drugs intended for interstate commerce. Of course the states have the same provisions regarding drugs in their respective state, so it doesn't matter. It usually wouldn't matter re narcotics either, because for the most part the states adopted those controls before the feds, & w the recent exception of mj, have kept them.

  • Longtobefree||

    General welfare
    Interstate commerce
    anything you can get away with
    There are all in there, you just have to find them.

  • Giving up||

    Jeff Sessions only cares about putting people in jail/prison. If he realized that many people got addicted to some sort of drug it surely wasn't by choice and he should be more concerned about helping them instead of locking them up and throwing away the keys. Also, there are many people that do hurt 24/7 and do need medications and are legit. When the DEA shuts down a pain clinic its also the legit patients that suffer. If the DEA shuts down pain clinics instead of letting patients go thru hell( if they cared at all) then they should provide a Dr. On site to help them. On top of having pain including the withdrawals is so INHUMANE and should be against the law. How bout thinking on this Jeff Sessions

  • Porque||

    The people of a 100% corrupt, totalitarian, police-state government should have a national publicacly publicised registry that includes, to begin with, an hour updated whereabouts, descriptions, photos(current), names, etc., etc., etc. of the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, etc., of all of the elected, appointed miscreants and their owners. When these miscreants, acting individuallynor in concert with each other, operate or try to operate, in an oppressive, impoverishing, and murderibg fashion, to the general population, or to any individual that deprives them of 'rightful human treatment', then components of the general population, will act viciously and with extreme prejudice, based on that register. This would be a precursur to total violent Revolution by Guerilla Warfare against said state until it is eradicated from the planet!

  • mchughjj||

    Jeff Sessions is the poster child for everything that has gone wrong with the Republican party over the last 15 years. I'm happy he's out of the Senate and less influential in his current, albeit important role.

  • jomo||

    I'm sure that if the starting QB for Alabama were to get busted for weed, Sessions and his ilk would immediately determine that "in this particular case, some discretion is warranted" and nervously sputter about "youthful indiscretions."

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