At a recent event before mostly local, state and federal law enforcement officers, newly appointed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a clear message to those who believe the War on Drugs has created America’s racist incarceration crisis. He does not plan to scale back that so-called war.
According to the Courthouse News Service, Sessions seems to hold the false belief that violent crime is on the rise in the U.S. and that drug distribution is the reason. Moreover, Sessions blames the recent increase in opioid-related heroin addiction in America on "Mexican drug cartels…producing new, low-cost heroin" — a novel understanding of that issue.
In fact, most scholars point to evidence that violent crime is at an historic low across the nation. The Bureau of Justice Statistics is the agency responsible for providing Congress with accurate information about crime rates, and both BJS measures of the violent crime and homicide rates show them at near all-time lows. The FBI says the rate of homicide and violent crime are dramatically lower nationwide than they were as recently as 2006.
Sessions was speaking in Richmond, Virginia, which has indeed experienced a local uptick in violence over the past decade. Sessions appeared to generalize this local experience to cities generally, a viewpoint not supported by evidence.
Last month, the Pew Research Center released statistics showing that violent crime has dropped sharply across the nation over the past 25 years, and that property crime has also dropped significantly.
Nevertheless, Sessions intends to crack down on drugs, including opioids and heroin, through "criminal enforcement, treatment and prevention," but his talk strongly emphasized enforcement, stepping-up crackdowns on dealers and imposing harsher sentences on those convicted of federal drug crimes.
He also plans to prosecute more people for weapons offenses, although he did not present evidence suggesting that these crimes themselves are on the rise. Instead, he merely pointed out that "firearms prosecutions have gone down," and vowed that this downward trend is going to end."
"We need to take criminals with guns off the streets," he said. "We need to put bad people behind bars."
Innumerable ordinary people have been legally prescribed opioid drugs, gotten addicted and cut off, and had no choice but to seek out heroin. Are these the "bad people"?
If you have been accused of a drug crime, whether by Florida or the federal government, it’s crucial to remember that the War on Drugs is by no means over. Take your charges seriously.