U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun a comprehensive reform of former President Barack Obama’s lax policies towards rising crime and is directing federal prosecutors to use every legal tool they have to remove criminals from communities.
“Unfortunately, the most recent crime data available shows a 10.8 percent in murders in this country, while federal prosecutions for violent crimes have been declining,” Sessions wrote in a memo to all federal prosecutors Wednesday. He continued:
It is the policy of the Department of Justice to reduce crime in America, and addressing violent crime must be a special priority. With crime rates rising, this is not an easy task as all professionals know. But, we do have strong evidence that aggressive prosecutions of federal laws can be effective in combatting crime. Our Department’s experience over decades shows these prosecutions can help save lives.
Sessions reference to rising murder is drawn from the FBI’s 2015 crime report. The report revealed a 10.8 percent increase in murders from 2014 to 2015—the largest increase in a single year since 1971—and a 3.9 percent increase in violent crime overall. Major cities were hit with a staggering 21.6 percent increase in murders, another FBI report found. Under Obama, a sudden reversal of a decades-long decline in violent crime took place in 2015 after be pushed his “stigmatize-and-federalize” campaign against state and local police following the August 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
Sessions has now directed the 94 federal U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work with state and local law enforcement to “specifically identify the criminals responsible for significant violent crime in their districts,” and ensure they are prosecuted.
Sessions specifically cited drug trafficking as a major contributor to violent crime, urging prosecutors to take down dealers and their enterprises. “[M]any violent crimes are driven by drug trafficking and drug trafficking organizations. For this reason, disrupting and dismantling those drug organizations through prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act can drive violent crime down,” he said.
The memo also indicates Sessions will demand prosecutors seek mandatory minimum sentences, Politico reports.
Sessions’ approach is a complete u-turn from the Obama administration’s efforts to minimize penalties against drug traffickers. For example, Obama launched an unprecedented effort to slash drug traffickers’ sentences, many of whom are armed convicts: He commuted over 1,700 federal prisoners’ sentences before leaving office, saying it was “the right thing to do” and “we all make mistakes.” Using revised sentencing guidelines, the Obama administration also released 30,000 convicts from federal prison.
In 2013, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told prosecutors not to mention the weight of drugs seized from traffickers when officials were filing crime reports. The purpose was to avoid triggering the strong sentences.
The soft approach was bad news for communities, but good news for traffickers eager to get back into the drug-dealing business: Recidivism rates for those charged with drug crimes stand at 77 percent, according to a Justice Department study commissioned under Holder. While the media uses the term “drug offenders” to paint a sympathetic picture of dealers, there are almost no cases of simple possession in federal courts, as Sessions explained during a May press conference. Nearly all, of 99.5 percent those incarcerated in federal prison on drug-related charges, were found guilty of trafficking illicit drugs.
Drug trafficking is an inherently violent enterprise “inseparable from violent victimization” and the ravages of addiction. Over 47,000 people died from drug-overdose deaths in 2014 alone. Heroin overdose deaths have more than tripled between 2010 and 2015. Immigration also fueled this surge of death-by-despair: Nearly all of the heroin used in the U.S. is brought across the border by illegal-alien traffickers.
“By consistently identifying the leading violent offenders in our communities and employing all available tools to hold them accountable, we will combat violent crime,” Sessions added.
The Obama administration’s efforts to slash the prison population is directly linked to the massive heroin-linked death toll, according to one federal prosecutor.
Read Sessions’ memo here.
Email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.