Cohen’s Statement on DOJ’s New Guidelines for Charging and Sentencing Criminal Offenses

May 12, 2017
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today released the following statement after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors establishing new policies for charging criminal offenses and seeking sentences when convictions are obtained:

“Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Harsher sentences for non-violent drug crimes cost taxpayers more money and waste limited resources that are needed to go after more dangerous, violent offenders who put the public at risk. The beneficiaries of these policies are often private prisons who profit from locking up more inmates, disproportionately affecting people of color. Attorney General Sessions said, ‘we know that drugs and crime go hand-in-hand…” That’s because some drugs are inappropriately labeled as illegal, making those who use them criminals. Illegal drugs result in organized, black-market drug trading and the use of guns, similar to the way Al Capone and the gangsters operated when alcohol was illegal under prohibition. Crime increased during prohibition as Eliot Ness and the federal agents enforced prohibition laws. The thirteen failed years of prohibition in this country are analogous to how we treat marijuana today. If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. We need to take marijuana out of the criminal justice system, so people who use marijuana are no longer labeled as criminals. Attorney General Sessions is preserving the government drug operation at the expense of the people. Poverty and crime go hand-in-hand, not drugs and crime. Many of the programs proposed by the Trump Administration will hurt people struggling with poverty as opposed to creating the kind of jobs needed to increase economic opportunity. If the Administration wants to help improve economically distressed neighborhoods, it should be focused on creating jobs and improving the economy, not building walls, eliminating and reducing health care, and locking people up for non-violent low-level drug offenses.”