Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he plans to re-instate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug cases, reversing a policy carried out by the Obama Department of Justice.
According to Politico, Sessions made the announcement in a memo, where he stated that the Department of Justice would no longer give judges leniency in sentencing those who face drug convictions based on the quantity they possess.
"It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," wrote Sessions. "This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency. This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences."
Sessions did acknowledge that some circumstances might warrant exceptions from mandatory minimum sentencing, but those exceptions can only be provided if they receive "supervisory approval."
Politico quotes Sessions stating at a summit focusing on the opioid epidemic that "we've got too much complacency about drugs. Too much talk about recreational drugs." Sessions suggested that being less lenient on drug cases is one way to tackle the opioid crisis.
Sessions is essentially undoing policies that were implemented under Eric Holder's DOJ that weakened mandatory-minimum laws. Only Congress has the authority to weaken those laws, so Sessions is simply doing his job of his enforcing the law. That didn't stop Holder from declaring, "The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime."
The facts, however, suggest that it is Holder who is "dumb on crime," as "incarceration has been going down and crime has been going up," as Conservative Review's Daniel Horowitz points out:
Last year, the FBI released new data compiled from over 15,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country (covering a population of 305 million) showing that the murder rate increased by 11.8 percent from 2014 to 2015. In mid-to-large cities with a population of 500,000-999,000, the murder rate spiked a whopping 20.2 percent in just one year. While crime data has always been a hodgepodge of sketchy and incomplete information, these numbers coincide with other independent analysis. According to the left-leaning Marshall Project, in the nation’s 25 largest cities, the murder rate jumped 14.6 percent in 2015, which is the largest single-year spike since 1960.
And who is hurt most by these policies?
According to the WSJ, “in 2014, 698 more blacks were killed than whites, according to the FBI. In 2015, 1,185 more blacks were killed than whites, according to the data.”
The argument against mandatory minimum drug sentences is that it is draconian, resulting in criminals sitting in jail for simple drug possession. However, that argument is reductive and ultimately falls apart in light of the facts. "One of the big factors in why so many individuals serving time in federal prison were convicted on drug charges is because they pled down from more serious charges, such as armed robbery or even murder, in relation to the drug offense," Horowitz writes.
The real problem with the criminal justice system isn't that it is too harsh, it's actually too lenient. Sessions is correct to fully enforce the law, especially given the recent rise in crime.