Jeff Sessions made a very important clarification regarding the crime problem facing this nation.
The Attorney General rebuked efforts by some officials to give lighter sentences to criminals to combat rising crime rates and a burgeoning prison population. “If we want to bring down our prison population then we should bring down crime,” Sessions said, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
These comments came during an address to the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association in Midwest City, Okla. He referenced the increasing trend of violent crime in this country, which rose by 3.4 percent in 2016 while murders rose by 8.2 percent. It’s an overall 20 percent increase since 2014, with violent crime having increased across 38 out of 50 states.
“And yet, despite the national surge in violent crime and the record number of drug deaths over the last two years, there is a move to even lighter sentences. We must be careful here. The federal prison population is down 15 percent – the average sentence is down 19 percent. Crime is up,” Sessions said.
The Attorney General also pointed out the current opioid epidemic, which was responsible for 49,000 out of the 64,000 lives lost by drug overdose in 2016. It’s an issue that’s become so problematic that President Trump declared the epidemic a national emergency “the likes of which we have never had,” according to Reuters.
Although acknowledging that sometimes it is “prudent” to lighten sentencing, Sessions didn’t feel this was the case for the current situation. “But I’m afraid we don’t have a sentencing problem; we have a crime problem. If we want to bring down our prison population then we should bring down crime,” Sessions said.
There are three bills, two with bipartisan support and one solely backed by Republicans, that focus on reforming federal sentencing rules. Two of those three aims to reduce the prison population through less harsh sentencing.
One bill, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), is meant to correct some of the perceived excessive sentencing regulations of the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act (SRA), which critics are saying drastically increased the prison population through harsher sentencing guidelines. It was reintroduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) when it failed to make it to the Senate floor.
Sessions, however, thinks otherwise. Having voted against the SRCA in the previous year as a Senator, he believes that the SRA was not only a success, but that is was a valuable tool for prosecutors working in the crime-ridden 1980’s.
“In 1984 I had been a federal prosecutor for six years when Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act. This law instituted mandatory minimum sentences, sentencing guidelines, truth in sentencing, and ended federal parole. I was a prosecutor before this law, and I was a prosecutor after it went into effect. It’s clear to me that it worked. We saw crime rates cut in half, neighborhoods revitalized, and general law and order restored on our streets,” Sessions said.
Attorney General Sessions said that coming down hard on criminals will help reduce prison populations. Do you agree?
Sessions reiterated the need to be careful in our interpretation of data and encouraged prosecutors to charge criminals with the most serious, readily provable offense that they can.
It’s clear that prison populations and violence are the symptoms and not the cause of the problems facing this country. As Sessions already said, this nation has a crime problem, one that both he and Trump are trying to solve.