On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave the green light to the continued use of privately run prisons, even though the Obama administration had moved to phase them out as no longer necessary given the declining prison population. Sessions said in a memo that the last administration went against long-standing Justice Department policy and practice and “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
On the same day, the White House suggested he’d more aggressively go after marijuana.
“It’s pretty safe to say that most people assume that the Sessions Justice Department is likely to scale back some of the reforms that were implemented under the Obama administration,” said Nancy La Vigne, director of the justice policy center at the Urban Institute. Sessions, who said last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” warned at his January confirmation hearing that illegal drugs were bringing “violence, addiction and misery” to America, and he pledged to dismantle drug trafficking gangs.
He did sponsor legislation to reduce sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine — a gap seen as disadvantaging black defendants. But last year, Sessions opposed bipartisan criminal justice overhaul efforts and has said that eliminating or reducing mandatory minimum sentences weakens the ability of law enforcement to protect the public.
That focus on drug crimes surfaced in the 1980s when Sessions served as United States attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Drug cases accounted for 40 percent of his office’s convictions, according to a Brennan Center analysis, with Sessions overseeing the prosecution of defendants, including Key West, Florida, residents who smuggled marijuana into Alabama aboard a shrimp boat.
Tougher enforcement of drug laws could be welcomed by some law enforcement officials, including Justice Department prosecutors who felt hamstrung in recent years in their ability to seek long sentences.
from Washington Post and AP
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