(Sorry it’s just mainly copy/paste again…)
“On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo ordering Justice Department staff to charge criminal suspects – specifically low-level, non-violent drug offenders – with the most severe crime possible and pursue the toughest sentences allowed, rolling back progress made under the Obama administration.
The two-page memo, released to the public Friday morning, requires federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against suspects. “It is core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” he wrote. “This policy confirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency.”, rollingstone.com
This is the pdf of the memo; the Rolling Stone version’s hard to read:
FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL~
SUBJECT: Department Charging and Sentencing Policy
This memorandum establishes charging and sentencing policy for the Department of Justice. Our responsibility is to fulfill our role in a way that accords with the law, advances public safety, and promotes respect for our legal system. It is of the utmost importance to enforce the law fairly and consistently. Charging and sentencing recommendations are crucial responsibilities for any federal prosecutor. The directives am setting forth below are simple but important. They place great confidence in our prosecutors and supervisors to apply them in a thoughtful and disciplined manner, with the goal of achieving just and consistent results in federal cases.
First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense. This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency. This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.
There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted. In that case, prosecutors should carefully consider whether an exception may be justified. Consistent with longstanding Department of Justice policy, any decision to vary from the policy must be approved by a United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, or a supervisor designated by the United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, and the reasons must be documented in the file.
Second, prosecutors must disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences, and should in all cases seek a reasonable sentence under the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553. In most cases, recommending a sentence within the advisory guideline range will be appropriate. Recommendations for sentencing departures or variances require supervisory approval, and the reasoning must be documented in the file .
Any inconsistent previous policy of the Department of Justice relating to these matters is rescinded, effective today.1
Each United States Attorney and Assistant Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that this policy is followed, and that any deviations from the core principle are justified by unusual facts. I have directed the Deputy Attorney General to oversee implementation of this policy and to issue any clarification and guidance he deems appropriate for its just and consistent application.
Working with integrity and professionalism, attorneys who implement this policy will meet the high standards required of the Department of Justice for charging and sentencing.”
Now the ‘inconsistent previous policy’ refers to former AG Eric Holder’s memo which had advised federal prosecutors to use their discretion when building a case against non-violent drug offenders, as a way to reserve harsh mandatory minimum sentences only for violent or high-level drug crimes. Now I’m not entirely sure how much his ‘advisement’ had taken, especially in California, but on Sept. 3, 2013, David Downs at sfgate.com called bullshit the disconnect between ‘policy’ and ‘local reality’.
“On Thursday U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a memo which states that the Administration will allow marijuana regulation plans to move forward in Washington and Colorado. The memo also instructs federal prosecutors to de-prioritize enforcement actions against medical marijuana businesses in states where the drug is legal, so long as the businesses are following state law.
On Friday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s office told me, reporting for the East Bay Express, that the situation in the Bay Area will largely remain the same. Ms. Haag has worked to dismantle state-legal pot-growing regulations in Mendocino County and Oakland, as has sought to shut down the best and most compliant medical marijuana operations in the region, including Harborside Health Center in Oakland and Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, CA.”
Did that disconnect get ironed out? The forfeiture gains were said to be massive, dunno about prison sentences.
“In a statement on Friday afternoon, Holder called Sessions’ new directive “dumb on crime,” noting that his 2013 policy had increased the number of high-level offenders who were prosecuted. “Abandoning this evidence-based progress and turning back the clock to a discredited, emotionally-motivated, ideological policy also threatens the financial of the federal criminal justice system,” he wrote, before calling on Congress to reverse the order by enacting legal criminal justice reforms. “It should do so and ensure that criminal justice policy is designed for 21st-century realities and not beholden to failed 20th century ideology.”
From Glen Ford:
“What Sessions is actually defending are the racist policies championed by Eric Holder, himself, when he was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in the mid-Nineties.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the deep-fried racist from Alabama, would like to turn the clock back to pre-Emancipation, but will settle for a return to the good old days of Bill Clinton, the mega-incarcerating con man from Hope, Arkansas. It is important to maintain an historical perspective on the actual policies that are being pushed by Republican and Democratic political actors, given the corporate media’s practice of revising history on a daily basis. Sessions’ new instructions demand that his U.S. attorneys “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” rather than adjust criminal charges and sentencing recommendations based on the defendants individual history and circumstances. Sessions insists that federal prosecutors push all the legal buttons necessary to activate mandatory minimum sentences, with no judicial discretion.
“Obama ‘led from behind’ on criminal justice issues, positioning himself on the cautious side of the emerging establishment consensus that the U.S. prison population must be shrunk.”
Obama and Holder did tolerate, and even encourage, a degree of prosecutorial discretion in framing charges and recommending sentences – although they proposed no fundamental reforms to the system. The truth is, prosecutorial discretion is an arbitrary tool of the state, a matter of convenience and budget-adjusting that has nothing to do with justice and leaves the repressive architecture of mass Black incarceration totally intact – as should be obvious, since all it took was a memo from Jeff Sessions to undo the phony “reform.”
As to the racial element, HRW got something right, for a change./s.
“More than 1.25 million people are arrested per year for drug possession, making it the single most arrested crime in the country. Black and white adults use drugs at similar rates, but a Black adult is 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession [wd here: some reports say 5 times more likely to be arrested, and with far more convictions and incarcerations, slightly fewer for Latinos]. On any given day there are at least 137,000 people behind bars as a result of drug possessions, while tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees. There is a better way. This report provides detailed recommendations authorities should follow to minimize the harmful consequences of current laws and policies, until decriminalization is achieved.”
And all of this while seven states have passed Recreational MJ (strange term, I’ll grant you) legalization, and 29 states have passed Medical Marijuana legalization. No news from Beauregard on his policy on MMJ-legal cannabis busts, or he’s sticking with his…hmmmm; it might be a different thing…
Udi Ofer, Director of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice writes:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions knows that the United States is the world’s leading incarcerator. We imprison more people than any other nation in the world. But apparently he likes that distinction because he just doubled down on it, guaranteeing that more people will be locked up for drug offenses in America’s federal prisons.
The 2013 Holder policy, as well as other federal and state reforms, was beginning to work. In 2015, the incarcerated population in the United States fell to its lowest level since 2004. The number of people in state and federal prisons dropped by 2.3 percent, with 40 percent of that drop due to fewer people in the federal Bureau of Prisons. In fact, President Obama was the first president in at least 40 years to leave office with a smaller federal prison system than he started with.”
His section on the decrease of crime rates since 1991 is fuzzy and too general, ill-defined, but I’ve seen this complaint before:
“Listening to Attorney General Sessions and to President Trump, you would think that America is living through a crisis of crime. Sessions constantly talks about a crime epidemic, selectively using statistics in a way that is misleading, and sometimes even outright lying. In his swearing in, Attorney General Sessions talked about a “dangerous permanent trend” of increasing crime. Yet that was a lie. There is no evidence of a national crime wave, as right now we’re living at a time when the crime rate is historically low.
But with this new directive, Attorney General Sessions is now implementing policies based on lies and misleading facts. He is directing federal prosecutors to increase a failed War on Drugs that has devastated the lives of millions of Americans, ripping apart families and communities, particularly Black people and other people of color, in a vicious cycle of incarceration. And he has already issued an order that will lead the federal government to rely more on private prisons, whose bottom line will increase under Attorney General Sessions’ new order.”
“Drug policy reformers have raised concerns that Sessions could use the FBI to crack down on marijuana operations nationwide, or direct the Drug Enforcement Administration to enforce federal prohibition outside of the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The court ruled in August that a federal rider blocks federal officials from prosecuting state-legal marijuana operators and patients. But that rider must be re-approved annually, and if it’s allowed to expire, Sessions could then order the DEA to enforce federal law nationally. He could also sue the various state governments that have set up regulatory schemes.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and the trend of states bucking prohibition in favor of legal regulation of the plant reflects a broad cultural shift toward greater acceptance of marijuana. National support for the legalization of the drug has risen dramatically in recent years, recently reaching historic highs in multiple polls. And states like Colorado, the first to establish a regulated adult-use marijuana marketplace, have seen successes that have debunked some lawmakers’ and law enforcers’ predictions that such policies would result in disaster.”
As to that fear, you may remember in 2014 that BAR’s Bruce Dixon ‘had recently steered readers to newly procured FOIAed documents at Mukrock.com that he called ‘a smoking gun’ in the DEA manuals of ‘parallel reconstruction’ of phony chains of evidence that began with NSA and likely other security state acronym agencies funneled to law enforcement agencies’. Well, guess which inconvenient people they might want to ‘construct’ cases against for fun and private prison profit?
“As described in the released portions of the module, parallel construction simply entails splitting the prosecutorial labor, with a Taint Review Team tackling pre-trial review so the trial prosecutor encounters as little classified evidence as possible.
But the released training modules provide no guidance on key issues noted in documents obtained by Reuters last August. In particular, the SOD slides barred agents from disclosing classified sources on affidavits or in courtroom testimony. Under this strain of parallel construction, the court would never know the classified origins of an investigation.
“You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” as one former federal agent described the process to Reuters.
Susanne Posel of OccupyCorporatism.com has the story on why Sessions also reversed Obama’s ‘phase out of federal prisons’ as he was going out the door. Some gaggable facts and history:
“When it comes to criminal offenses, “96.9% of cases processed included pleas” in order to avoid trial because “drug offenders accounted for 50% of the male federal prison population and 58% of the federal female prison population.”
When taken into account that “blacks were 10.1 times more likely than whites to enter prison for drug offenses” it begins to become clear that racism is a big part of the scheme to incarcerate as many Americans as possible.
Privatization of prisons has also contributed to the terrible conditions they are in; as well as the necessity for 100% capacity for the increase in profit margins.
A record 90% of inmates in the US are “held in private prisons” meaning they are incarcerated within a private for profit corporate facility, including GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Both CCA and GEO are publically traded corporations and take in several hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue annually.
CCA attributes this lucrative investment to potential future stockholders to their “high recidivism” rate which ensures they will continue to be relevant and necessary.
Aramark, a corporation providing food to prisons, was caught 65 times for “failing to provide food or ran out of food”; including 5 recorded cases of maggots found in the food Aramark provided.
This corporation also changed their recipes to include “substandard ingredients”.
[From Aramark’s ‘about us’: ‘Creating experiences that engage and inspire; We deliver an impact wherever people work, learn, recover and play’]
To save money in Arizona back in 2013, medical spending dropped by $30 million after it was privatized while staffing levels also dropped. However, within the first 8 months of 2013, 50 prisoners died “within the department of corrections custody”.
‘Happy Orange Friday’ by Anthony Freda
History has taught me some strange arithmetic
Using swords, prison bars, and pistol grips
English is the art of bombing towns
While assuring that you really only blessed the ground
Science is that honorable, useful study
Where you contort the molecules and then you make that money
In mathematics, dead children don’t get added
But they count the cost of bullets comin’ out the automatic
Economics is the symphony of hunger and theft
Mortar shells often echo out the cashing of checks
In Geography class, its borders, mountains and rivers
But they will never show the line between the takers and givers
Algebra is that unique occasion
In which a school can say that there should be a balanced equation
And then Statistics is the tool of the complicit
To say everybody’s with it and that you’re the only critic…
Isn’t it killingly funny that the librul class has made Comey a celebrity star victim since his firing?