According to The Washington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed several policy changes made by former Attorney General Eric Holder, paving the way for drug sentences to get significantly longer again—and essentially bringing back the War on Drugs.
Sessions sent a two-page memo to the 94 U.S. attorneys offices across the country last week. According toUSA Today, this directive replaced the 2013 memo published by Holder, which aimed to who had tried to reduce the prison population by allowing nonviolent offenders to serve shorter sentences.
“We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple,” Sessions said in a speech, as reported by The Washington Post. “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct.”
Some argue that the new policy is unjust and unfair to people who commit less serious crimes.
“Jess Sessions is pushing federal prosecutors to reverse progress and repeat a failed experiment—the War on Drugs—that has devastated the lives and rights of millions of Americans, ripping apart families and communities are setting millions, particularly Black people and other people of color, on a vicious cycle of incarceration,” Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice, said in a statement.
It is unclear yet how the new policy recommendations will be enacted in practice. The memo directs prosecutors to follow the federal guidelines for sentencing procedures, unless there’s a reason to do otherwise—in which case, exceptions can occur, the Post reported.
“There will be circumstances in which good judgement would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted,” the memo reads. “In that case, prosecutors should carefully consider whether an exception may be justified.”