With a two-page memo sent last week from the AG's office to the nation's 5,000-plus assistant USA 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".
Mr. Sesssion's order, which was released last Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions' predecessors under President Barack Obama. "If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way". "We will not be willfully blind to your conduct".
While Congress has not yet succeeded in passing significant sentencing reform (it's always harder to remove bad laws than to pass them), the reaction to Sessions' proclamation is heartening.
Should prosecutors be tough on crime or smart on crime? Jared Kushner, the president's adviser and son-in-law, has been assigned the job of working on a criminal justice overhaul, among other issues.
Without reform, Oklahoma is on pace to add 7,218 inmates over the next 10 years, requiring three new prisons that would cost the state an additional $1.9 billion in capital expenditures and operating costs, a task force appointed by the governor has said.
"Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long", Sen.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is promising to renew the federal government's war on drugs, saying tough new sentencing policies are necessary to combat what he described as a surge of violent crime in cities. Paul said the Trump administration "should treat our nation's drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" problem". 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.
"Harsher sentences for non-violent drug crimes cost taxpayers more money and waste limited resources that are needed to go after more risky, violent offenders who put the public at risk".
That's why Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott is redoubling his effort to revamp the criminal justice system.
It's a discussion unlikely to gain much traction under a Sessions-led Justice Department. As Sessions wrote, the policy is a return to "enforcing the laws that Congress has passed". Scott tells Rolling Stone of Sessions' move to reinstate mandatory minimums. "If you're trying to bamboozle the public, it does work".
The polarized political environment of the last few years has made it almost impossible for both parties to agree on anything, but reforming our criminal justice system has bucked that partisan trend.
Under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, the Justice Department had sought to reduce mandatory-minimum sentences to reduce jail time for low-level drug crimes and ease overcrowding at federal USA prisons.
For example, possession of 100 grams of heroin or 100 kilograms of marijuana would trigger a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense under federal law. He gave his support for more privately owned prisons, and now he needs to provide the "customers" for them.
Scott acknowledges that changing the conversation is hard, because politicians get rewarded for seeming to be tough on crime.
The injustice of mandatory minimum sentences is impossible to ignore when you hear the stories of the victims. "Nobody gets ambushed voting stupid on crime".