I did not like Jeff Sessions years ago when I lived in Alabama and I like him even less now that he is in a position to harm all of America. In general, Session is a racist and homophobe who wants to take America back to the 1950's when white privilege was still dominant and any one who wasn't a white, heterosexual conservative Christian lived in the margins. Now, Sessions wants to revive the failed war on drugs, including mandatory minimum sentences which disproportionately hit minorities without the financial ability to hire legal counsel. This has two negative effects. First, having a criminal record permanently bars offenders from most opportunities of landing a good job later in life - even as Sessions and those like him whine about low employment results for past prisoners. Second, it disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, something in high favor with Mr. Sessions and similar racists who hold sway in today's Republican Party. Sessions is a dangerous Neanderthal who should never have been confirmed as Attorney General. A piece in the Washington Post looks at his effort to revitalize failed programs that fit hand in glove with his long history of racism and bigotry. Here are excerpts:
When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought Cook into his inner circle at the Justice Department, appointing him to be one of his top lieutenants to help undo the criminal justice policies of Obama and former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. As Sessions has traveled to different cities to preach his tough-on-crime philosophy, Cook has been at his side.
Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.
Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.
Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.
“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).
The records of Cook and Sessions show that while others have grown eager in recent years to rework the criminal justice system, they have repeatedly fought to keep its toughest edges, including winning a battle in Congress last year to defeat a reform bill.
But sentencing reform advocates say the tough crime policies went too far. The nation began incarcerating people at a higher rate than any other country — jailing 25 percent of the world’s prisoners at a cost of $80 billion a year. The nation’s prison and jail population more than quadrupled from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million in 2015, filled with mostly black men strapped with lengthy prison sentences — 10 or 20 years, sometimes life without parole for a first drug offense.
Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.
The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing . . . . The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.
“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”
Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.
Sessions is also expected to take a harder line on the punishment for using and distributing marijuana, a drug he has long abhorred. His crime task force will review existing marijuana policy, according to a memo he wrote prosecutors last week. Using or distributing marijuana is illegal under federal law, which classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, the same category as heroin, and considered more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine.
In his effort to resurrect the practices of the drug war, it is still unclear what Sessions will do about the wave of states that have legalized marijuana in recent years. Eight states and the District of Columbia now permit the recreational use of marijuana, and 28 states and the District have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
But his rhetoric against weed seems to get stronger with each speech. In Richmond, he cast doubt on the use of medical marijuana and said it “has been hyped, maybe too much.”
Sessions represents the ignorance embracing, racist GOP at its worst. Like many who feign religious piety, Sessions is a foul individual. Calling him a modern day Pharisee is too kind. Recreational use of marijuana needs to be legalized, as does medical marijuana.