Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pointedly undoing the progress that anti-prison and criminal justice reform advocates have worked for over the years.
Amidst all of the political turmoil at the White House in the past week, it can be hard to pay attention to what policies the Trump Administration puts in place and repeals from the Obama era. As the Comey/ Trump/ Russia/ Flynn saga continues, however, it is important to attend to the policies that Jeff Sessions is employing to re-engineer the DOJ to be a more punitive and regressive agency.
Sessions is returning to and expanding Bush-era advisory for prosecutors to pursue mandatory minimums and the toughest possible charges for criminal offenses, according to The New York Times. This order erases the Obama era shift toward easing sentencing and using discretion for non-violent drug offenses.
This type of order threatens black and brown people particularly, as these populations are still most likely to be arrested for drug use, even as the use of recreational drugs is similar across races.
In addition, this order does nothing to ease mass incarceration in the United States, and may cause an increase in long prison sentences and the arrest and imprisonment of more Americans.
Sessions is all but doing away with DOJ oversight of police departments. He feels that Obama-era consent decrees, or investigations into systemic civil rights abuses by local departments, are a waste of federal dollars. He has stated that he wants to give more power back to police departments.
It seems that Sessions also plans to target undocumented immigrants, calling them “filth” in a speech to border agents last April. Politico writes that Sessions ordered the DOJ to pursue felony charges for those who enter the US without documentation multiple times.
Sessions’ policies are a direct reversal on improvements made to the DOJ in light of research and bipartisan support. This man should not be leading the DOJ, as he will not be a force for good, but for archaic policies that disproportionately harm communities of color.
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