In a mere matter of days following its issuance, what is already widely known in shorthand form as the “Sessions memo” continues to generate material fervor and related sound bites across the country.
We touched upon the continuing War on Drugs-tinged theme that strongly resonates in the U.S. Attorney General’s guidance communication to federal prosecutors in a recent blog post. We noted specifically in our May 12 entry that the edict is marked by a strong dissonance that dramatically separates it from both recent policy announcements and a growing public sentiment that is clearly on display.
We spend a bit more time today in follow-up mode regarding the memo, given its continuing news buzz and clear variance from empirical evidence indicating that a clear majority of Americans want to eschew a lock-them-up mentality based on mandatory minimum sentencing rules for low-level — and often first-time and nonviolent — drug offenders.
That view is forcefully advanced by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whose scathing and oft-repeated denunciations of mandatory minimums reflect a broadly bipartisan rejection of that harsh sentencing tool.
It didn’t take Paul long to respond to Sessions’ new dictate to federal attorneys, with the senator decrying its terms and contending that a recommitted application of mandatory minimums will merely result in “ruining more lives.” Paul — and a legion of like thinkers across a broad political and social spectrum — favors treatment over incarceration, as well as prison-alternative outcomes that comparatively reduce recidivism and cost taxpayers far less money to administer.
Will Sessions’ view and approach ultimate gain traction and effectively bring about a reversal of momentum that has strongly been trending in the opposite direction?
Although time will tell, of course, it is adamantly clear that there is a veritable mountain of opposition to the return of a status quo that is widely perceived to have been a failure.
Don’t straitjacket judges, Paul urges. Instead, undercut the mandatory nature and sting of mandatory minimums by returning badly needed discretion to courts that allows them to impose sentences beneath stated mandatory minimums.