GOP Sen. Sounds The Alarm About Jeff Sessions’ Sentencing Plan: ‘It Will Ruin Lives’
On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an unfortunate announcement that will impact the lives of millions of Americans: he issued new instructions for prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable offenses they can prove in court, “those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”
It’s a known fact that mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities.
During the Obama administration, former Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidelines to U.S. Attorneys that they should refrain from seeking long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
“I agreed with Holder then and still do,” Republican Sen. Rand Paul wrote in an Opinion Piece for CNN.com website. “In fact, I’m the author of a bipartisan bill with Senator Leahy to change the law on this matter,” he added.
“Until we pass that bill, though, the discretion on enforcement —and the lives of many young drug offenders— lies with the current attorney general,” the Kentucky Senator wrote.
The attorney general’s new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system. We should be treating our nation’s drug epidemic for what it is — a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy.
And make no mistake, the lives of many drug offenders are ruined the day they receive that long sentence the attorney general wants them to have.
If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago.
Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting, primarily because of the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.
The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times likelier to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates.
The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African-American or Latino.
Paul went on to say that “mandatory minimum sentencing has done little to address the very real problem of drug abuse while also doing great damage by destroying so many lives, and most Americans now realize it.
Proposition 47 recently passed in California, and it has spurred a cultural change in the way nonviolent drug offenders are treated, resulting in more than 13,000 fewer prisoners and a savings of $150 million, according to a Stanford Law School study.”
Pew Research found that 67% of Americans want drug offenders to get treatment, not prison, and over 60% want an end to mandatory minimum sentences.”
The Kentucky Senator concluded by issuing an urgent call for justice:
“I urge the attorney general to reconsider his recent action. But even more importantly, I urge my colleagues to consider bipartisan legislation to fix this problem in the law where it should be handled. Congress can end this injustice, and I look forward to leading this fight for justice.”