I’m a big opponent of the drug war, and of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s increased focus on stocking our prisons with drug offenders. And recently, when Sessions overturned a reduction in mandatory minimum sentences from former AG Eric Holder, I feared the worst:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is directing federal prosecutors to seek “the most serious” criminal charges against suspects, a move that would result in severe prison sentences – and is expected to reverse recent declines in the overcrowded federal prison system.
The brief, two-page directive, issued to the 94 U.S. attorneys offices across the country late Thursday, replaces a 2013 memo put in place by then-Attorney General Eric Holder that sought to limit the use of mandatory-minimum sentencing rules that had condemned some non-violent offenders to long prison terms – that proved to be expensive for taxpayers.
But, we all should have known that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if only because Holder himself instituted the directive, and opposed its removal:
Not surprisingly, Eric Holder was outraged by Sessions’ decision to actually enforce laws and issued the following statement:
Former Attorney General Eric Holder statement… pic.twitter.com/VuXn5VmMHI
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) May 12, 2017
At first, I thought Sessions was going after every drug “offender” under the sun, but then I took a closer look at the Sessions directive itself:
Under the plan, ten-year mandatory minimum sentences would typically be sought in cases where suspects were in possession of 1 kilogram of heroin (equal to thousands of doses); 5 kilograms of cocaine (about 11 pounds); or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana (more than 2,000 pounds).
Sessions isn’t exactly targeting your everyday street user, he’s going after the big hitters. You certainly shouldn’t expect much leniency from sentencing guidelines if you’re toting around 11 pounds of cocaine or over 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
Zerohedge summed up this omission by the mainstream media quite succinctly, noting that the majority of prisoners with commuted sentences were almost always much more serious offenders than the media has indicated:
This latest move concluded Obama’s mission to aggressively use his clemency power to release 100’s of violent criminals serving time due to what he has described as “outdated and overly harsh drug sentencing laws.” But, while the President often claimed publicly that his commutations were only for “low-level” and “non-violent” criminals, 568 of the 1,715 commutations were offered to people serving life sentences…which typically aren’t given to “low-level” criminals caught with a couple ounces of drugs on them.
Here is how Obama’s acts of clemency stacked up against other Presidents…can anyone spot the outlier?
It remains to be seen whether or not Sessions will apply the guidelines to more low-level offenders who are merely stocking prisons for all the wrong reasons, but there is something to be said about Sessions going after more serious dealers, who are likely involved in more dangerous activities than your run-of-the-mill drug dealing.
Then again, Sessions could just be looking to get a lot of people (possibly himself) rich by enforcing those same guidelines on all the wrong people. Time will tell what ends up happening, but from a historical perspective, does anyone really trust the government to get this one right all of a sudden?