Tulsi Gabbard has voiced strong opposition to a recent directive by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that instructs federal prosecutors across the country to charge suspects with the most serious offenses they can prove, rolling back Obama-era guidelines implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder that sought to de-prioritize prosecution of non-violent drug offenders. Tulsi Gabbard voiced her criticism in a tweet on Friday.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) May 13, 2017
According to CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a one and a half page memo outlining the Justice Department’s charging and sentencing policy.
“This memorandum establishes charging and sentencing policy for the Department of justice,” the memo says.
“Our responsibility is to fulfill our role in a way that accords with the law, advances public safety, and promotes respect for our legal system. It is of the utmost importance to enforce the law fairly and consistently. Charging and sentencing recommendations are crucial responsibilities for any federal prosecutor. The directives I am setting forth below are simple but important.”
The Sessions memo goes on to direct prosecutors to consistently enforce mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for all federal crimes, even nonviolent drug offenses. Under Barack Obama’s Justice Department, federal prosecutors were directed by former Attorney General Eric Holder to avoid charging low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, instead placing the prosecutorial focus on more serious and violent crimes.
Critics see the move by Jeff Sessions as a regressive and irrational return to the failed policies of the federal government’s “war on drugs” that Obama-era Justice Department reforms sought to remedy. According to the Los Angeles Times, the federal prison population has declined by 14 percent since 2013, in large part due to a huge reduction of drug cases where mandatory minimum sentences would apply.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement criticizing the move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to CNN.
“The policy announced today is not tough on crime,” Holder’s statement says.
“It is dumb on crime. It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has also issued a statement criticizing Jeff Sessions for the decision, according to the Hill.
“Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long,” Paul’s statement said.
“Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice.”
Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul were previously on opposite sides of the same issue when Sessions was in the Senate and Paul supported the Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Act in 2015, which sought to reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
In fact, as Tulsi Gabbard said in a recent tweet, there is broad bipartisan support for ending our country’s failed war on drugs. The view of Jeff Sessions and other old-fashioned drug warriors is seen by many as a rigid approach based on morality that has consistently failed to address the underlying problem. This approach has not only proven unsuccessful but has destroyed countless lives with harsh sentences for nonviolent offenders, according to critics of the policies.
There is bipartisan consensus to end the War on Drugs. Congress can start by passing HR 1227, our Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) May 13, 2017
Tulsi Gabbard’s marijuana decriminalization bill was reported in a previous Inquisitr article.
Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Congressman and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, shares these concerns, according to CNN.
“Our biggest concerns about Attorney General Sessions are becoming reality. Yesterday’s action doubles down on a policy that we know was ineffective and discriminatory,” Richmond said.
“In the name of helping communities, this policy destroyed many of them, including the families that live there. It is widely known that every $1 we spend on mass incarceration makes the country less safe, but Attorney General Sessions has not learned this lesson and is determined to continue the war on drugs with extremely brutal force.”
Jeff Sessions seems to be unmoved by these arguments being made by Tulsi Gabbard and others, opting instead for an even stronger commitment to the federal war on drugs.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) May 13, 2017
[Featured Image by Jose Luis Magana/AP Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images]