Why is Sessions doubling down on a failed drug war?

We should focus on promoting smart policies that end this opioid crisis that’s ravaging our communities.

Attorney Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Trump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle Trump tweets test Attorney General Barr MORE claimed to be committed to doing this, but he has now issued a memorandum instructing federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” for all cases, including less serious drug offenses, leaving little room for common sense discretion to do the right thing.

We already know what happens when prosecutors focus on mandatory minimums and severe sentences: we end up in a nation with the highest incarceration rate and an ongoing drug crisis that belies the aggressiveness of the War on Drugs


We already know that focusing on harm reduction, prevention, and treatment is more effective than focusing on long sentences and jail time. Yet, Sessions is intent on institutionalizing his obsession with incarceration, which will only sink us further into this crisis.


A recent study found that conservative Americans overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform and practices that focus on rehabilitation and prevention. Many Americans know people or have family members who have had encounters with the criminal justice system. 

We know that we can’t incarcerate away addiction. 

We see it our daily lives. 

Prosecutors should continue to act as attorneys  who “seek justice, not merely to convict” because they have sworn to uphold the highest ethical standards. While there is undoubtedly political pressure to cower to the incarceration-hungry demands of Sessions, federal prosecutors have limited resources to carry forth their jobs and should primarily focus on the most serious offenses. 

They should completely abandon less serious drug offenses to avoid bringing charges that don’t match the circumstances of a case. 

This discretion is completely sensible. The President has announced that he would like the Department of Justice budget to shrink by $1 billion

Accordingly, there may be fewer resources to fulfill the prosecution function, and federal prosecutors should respond by prioritizing the most serious offenses that threaten the community safety. 

With their limited, and likely decreasing, resources, it makes sense for prosecutors to only bring charges in the most serious cases and completely abandon bringing charges for less serious offenses. 

This will ensure that the interests of justice are served and that our communities are safer. 

I. India Thusi is the associate counsel for The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab. She has litigated cases on policing and structural inequality in the criminal justice system. Follow her on Twitter @inGerri, and the Opportunity Agenda @oppagenda.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.