Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the policy he authorized last month to aggressively combat crime due to drug trafficking "empowers police and prosecutors to save lives."
The new plan reverses policies enacted in 2013 that softened sentences for drug dealers by ordering federal prosecutors not to include in charging documents the amount of drugs dealt if it would trigger a mandatory sentence. Sessions explained in an article he wrote on Friday for The Washington Post that the 2013 policy was promoted on the concept that it would lower incarceration rates by low-level offenders.
Prior to that, violent crime rates had seen a steady decline over two decades, Sessions wrote, but explained that by 2014, "the trend of decreasing violent crime reversed," and by 2015 "the United States suffered the largest single-year increase in the overall violent crime rate since 1991."
The increase in crime continued in 2016 as the "United States suffered an average increase in murders of nearly 22 percent compared with the same period from a year earlier," Sessions explained, adding it was his "duty to protect all Americans and fulfill the president’s promise to make America safe again."
"Instead of barring prosecutors from faithfully enforcing the law, this policy empowers trusted professionals to apply the law fairly and exercise discretion when appropriate. That is the way good law enforcement has always worked," he wrote.
He explained when the government enacted softer policies against drug dealers, "drug abuse and violent crime surged."
"The availability of dangerous drugs is up, the price has dropped and the purity is at dangerously high levels. Overdose deaths from opioids have nearly tripled since 2002. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose an astonishing 73 percent in 2015," he wrote.
In response to critics of tougher sentencing policies, Sessions maintained that "minority communities are disproportionately impacted by violent drug trafficking."
"Poor neighborhoods are too often ignored in these conversations. Regardless of wealth or race, every American has the right to demand a safe neighborhood," he wrote.
"Those of us who are responsible for promoting public safety cannot sit back while any American communities are ravaged by crime and violence," Sessions stated. "Our new, time-tested policy empowers police and prosecutors to save lives."
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