During the eighties and nineties America began enacting and enforcing laws showing that America was “tough on crime.” Mandatory minimum sentences were instituted for any drug related convictions, no matter how low level the offense was. As a result, the prison population exploded and the United States became number one in number of incarcerations. It wasn’t until Obama’s Justice Department began doing away with mandatory minimum sentences that the prison population began to decline. Trump’s head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, wants to undo all of the progress that we’ve made this decade by reinstituting mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenders. Sessions said in a speech in front of 80 members of law enforcement that “violence and drugs go together.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Memphis in front of a group of law enforcement officials from all over the country last week. Just two days before that, a video of a six year old boy pleading for an end to gun violence went viral on Facebook, according to Vice. Sessions decided to use this video as a segue to talk about his favorite thing: throwing people in prison. Sessions said in a speech, “The more murderers in jail, the fewer people are going to be murdered in this country. I don’t think the increase is a blip. Yes, we did have 30 years of a decline in crime, which we did with tough sentencing, and tough prosecution.”
While this sounds plausible, the reasons for the decline in crime over the last few decades remain a mystery. Some have said that crime goes down when the economy is doing well. The nineties were a time of economic prosperity that the US hadn’t seen since the postwar boom, therefore people did not need to resort to illegal means to make money. This rationale makes sense, except for the fact that the crime rate continued to decline during the Great Recession. One thing that has not been attributed to the drop in crime is mass incarceration, according to a study conducted in 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. The study findings showed that harsher prison sentences were not much of a deterrent. In fact, these conditions made recidivism (reoffending) much more likely. So, it looks like you’re wrong Jeff Sessions. Does he realize this, or is he being disingenuous?
Wait there’s more. Sessions went on to say this, “Drugs and crime go together. If they don’t fear you, they don’t pay you. Sessions then said “Violent crime surged, federal drug prosecutions fell. We’re going to reverse that trend. There’s been too much legalization talk and not enough prevention talk.” Wait, did he just contradict itself? Sessions seems to think that legalizing cannabis has led to a spike in violence. There is actually much more evidence that prohibition is more likely to lead to violence. Think about it. When states legalize cannabis people are buying it in a legal market. That money is going back into the state and the community. When cannabis is illegal, then people are giving money to drug cartels. Drug cartels have been negatively impacted since states started legalizing cannabis. It seems that Jeff Sessions wants a return to the days of the drug cartels. Nothing good will come of this. Mark my words.
Image Source: New Yorker
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