DOJ Boss Promises The Return Of Everything That Didn't Work During The Last 40 Years Of Drug Warring

from the throwback-Thursday-now-24/7 dept

Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t much interested in the “justice” side of the Department of Justice. Instead, it appears he’d like to throw on his letterman’s jacket and head back to his glory days as a hard-nosed, 1980s-vintage drug warrior. Things were better when Sessions was a federal prosecutor in Alabama, ringing up drug convictions at a rate four times the national average.

The word “reactionary” is thrown around a lot when describing Trump and his cabinet. But in Sessions’ case, the term fits. Violent crimes rates have fallen steadily since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, drug prices have dropped and purity has increased, despite four decades of harsh enforcement and trillions of dollars being thrown at the problem. Devil weed — gateway drug and longtime conspirator in the violation of American women by filthy non-whites — is now a socially and medically-accepted drug, legal in several states.

But there are violent crime increases in a few major cities. He’s not sure what’s to blame for this potential historical blip, but he has several theories. It might be soft-on-drugs Obama-era policies embraced by his predecessor’s DOJ. It might be a lack of respect for law enforcement, which Sessions feels is a failure of the American public, rather than the failures of those who serve them. It might be rambunctious legislators scaling back asset forfeiture all over the country. Whatever it is, the current course needs to be reversed and the policies that failed for multiple decades be allowed to fail again.

Where else would Sessions espouse his “brave new old world” plan than standing over the desiccated corpse of a federally-funded program that did fuck all to curb drug use by teens and tweens: the 30th D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Training Conference.

We were in the beginning of this fight, in 1983, when DARE was founded in Los Angeles. I believe that DARE was instrumental to our success by educating children on the dangers of drug use. I firmly believe that you have saved lives. And I want to say thank you for that. Whenever I ask adults around age 30 about prevention, they always mention the DARE program. Your efforts work. Lives and futures are saved.

Sessions can believe anything he wants about the DARE program, but the fact is it had almost zero impact on reducing drug use by children. Multiple studies of the program suggest zero impact is the best possible outcome. At worst, the program was viewed as ridiculous by students and actually introduced them to substances they weren’t previously aware of. It often inspired curiosity. It rarely inspired lifelong abstinence.

But Sessions wants a bigger, better drug war — one not constrained by logic, compassion, or mountains of evidence showing the war has been a catastrophic failure. Sessions hints we need more violence from our law enforcers because drug dealers are violent.

We know drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun. There is no doubt that violence tends to rise with increased drug dealing.

As Scott Greenfield pointed out, if drugs were legal, you could file a lawsuit to recover debts — a process far less likely to result in dead bodies.

Stats are spun to fit the narrative:

Sentences for federal drug crimes dropped by 18 percent from 2009 to 2016. Violent crime—which had been decreasing for two decades—suddenly went up again. Two years after this policy change, the United States suffered the largest single-year increase in the overall violent crime rate since 1991.

And yet, the violent crime rate remains at historic lows. Sessions sees a spike as a trend even though the numbers don’t agree with him. In another speech, he specifies which year he’s referring to:

In 2015, we as a nation suffered the largest single-year increase in the violent crime rate since 1991, and the largest jump in the murder rate since 1968.

But even the FBI can’t buttress the AG’s dark narrative.

According to the report, there were an estimated 1,197,704 violent crimes committed around the nation. While that was an increase from 2014 figures, the 2015 violent crime total was 0.7 percent lower than the 2011 level and 16.5 percent below the 2006 level.

The Sessions Drug War Wagon plows on, focused on preaching to the converted and riling up the most ignorant legislators and voters. At event after event, Sessions does everything but hand out laced Kool Aid and visions of a heavily-policed afterlife. Facts are out; verbal y-axis distortions are in.

The preliminary data for the first half of 2016 showed further increases, with large cities seeing an average increase in murders of nearly 22 percent compared with the same period the year before.

This spike in violent crime is not happening in every neighborhood or city. But the trend is real and should concern us all. It must not continue.

A spike is a trend in the eyes of AG Sessions, whose narrative conflicts with the FBI’s findings. This is a spike — compared year-to-year — but one that can’t even bring crime levels back to where they were a decade ago, much less the sky-high rates of the 80s and 90s when Sessions was prosecuting the hell out of Alabama.

Hence the return of asset forfeiture, presumably with enough force to overcome legislative resistance. From the same speech to the National District Attorneys Association:

In addition, we hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers. With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.

Sessions mentions criminals, but criminal charges have never been an integral part of the forfeiture process. The government likes taking stuff, but has less of an interest in proving the property owner is actually a criminal.

A new era of punitive justice is upon us. One that prefers prosecutions to prevention and harsh sentences to deterrents less likely to permanently ruin someone’s life.

I recently sent out my directive on charging and sentencing. It is sound law and policy. Assistant U.S. Attorneys will simply be expected to charge the most serious readily provable offense. If that would be unjust, prosecutors can seek a waiver approval from a designated supervisor without Washington.

In short, we have ended the policies that handcuffed our federal prosecutors.

There will apparently be enough handcuffs for everyone else.

This is a frustrating turn of events. The new DOJ will elevate law enforcement officers and prosecutors above the people they serve. Everything that didn’t work for three decades straight will be making a comeback. And if that fails to turn things around, I’m guessing it will be blamed on the media, anti-police sentiment, or whatever convenient scapegoat happens to be on hand when the blowback begins.

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Comments on “DOJ Boss Promises The Return Of Everything That Didn't Work During The Last 40 Years Of Drug Warring”

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105 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

'If reality refuses to justify your desires, simply replace it with a 'reality' that does'

In 2015, we as a nation suffered the largest single-year increase in the violent crime rate since 1991, and the largest jump in the murder rate since 1968.

Expanding on the rebuttal to this in the article, the funny thing about steadily decreasing crime rates is that the numbers get smaller and smaller. As a result, the amount needed to cause a ‘jump’ or a ‘spike’ tend to get smaller as well. An increase of 10 is barely a blip when you’re talking about 1,000 on average, whereas that same amount looks a lot bigger when you shrink the average number to 100.

Less crime means any increase looks larger, even if it doesn’t even remotely compare to historic numbers, meaning running around like a headless chicken and fearmongering as though the streets were running with blood is hardly constructive or realistic.

No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.

Cool, great. So then, you’ll be all for instituting a federal requirement of conviction before someone loses their stuff, to be sure that it is indeed criminals losing their ill-gotten gains taken from them, rather than merely accused criminals having their property stolen from them?

I mean, surely someone who claims to be against criminal activity wouldn’t recklessly endorse a practice that’s been widely abused and is far too often for all intents and purposes theft under cover of authority, right?

… no? If someone is accused then that’s good enough for you, and if a few innocent people end up robbed by thugs with badges then that’s a price you’re willing to (have others) pay for your ‘law and order’ dream?

Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.

‘… in order to better get around those treasonous state laws that place a higher requirement on forfeitures and/or prohibit the local police from having a very real financial incentive to grab anything that isn’t nailed down or on fire(after which they break out the crowbars and fire-extinguishers).’

In short, we have ended the policies that handcuffed our federal prosecutors.

No, you just handcuffed them in a different manner by stating that they will go after the charge that will result in the highest possible sentence, with a ‘generous’ offer that if they don’t think doing so would be just then they can ask for a waiver to avoid having to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'If reality refuses to justify your desires, simply replace it with a 'reality' that does'

“No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”

“Cool, great. So then, you’ll be all for instituting a federal requirement of conviction before someone loses their stuff”

– Also, you’ll be cool with going to jail for all the laws you have broken.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

You’ve six months to go and the GOP can’t govern for toffee because a) they’ve convinced themselves that government ruins everything it touches and b) as a result they haven’t bothered to learn how governance actually works, so c) it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do much worse than they have so far. You’ll survive till the mid-terms, and then, please God you’ll be knocking on your neighbours’ doors begging them to vote anything but GOP.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Flash bangs are not what you use when you fear for your life.

Lawrence, the question is, why did a loud noise make him shoot an Aussie woman who was talking to him?

If US cops are perpetually in such abject fear for their lives, they’re in the wrong damn job. Surely to goodness the stress engendered by being in a state of fear most or all of the time would pull them apart sooner or later, resulting in time taken off, heart attacks, ulcers, etc. That either happens or it doesn’t. If cops don’t suffer more from stress-related illnesses than the rest of us do, I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re using us for target practice because it’s bloody hard to get a conviction against them for shooting us.

Honestly, a stressed-out PTSD-suffering cop should not be let loose on the streets with a gun. He might hurt or even kill someone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Flash bangs are not what you use when you fear for your life.

His partner was driving. The woman was outside the drivers side door. The cop shot across his partner and out the window, killing the woman.

How do you think his partner feels about that? I know I wouldn’t appreciate having someone stick a gun in front of my face and pull the trigger. Inside a car, that is causing hearing loss. Additionally, it isn’t good that someone shoots across you that closely.

The cop had 2 years on the job. His partner had 1 year on the job.

Sounds like someone should lose their job at least. You can’t convict for a crime, because all the cop has to do is say he feared for his life. Those are the rules. Saying that, this guy, maybe both of them, should not be cops anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The War on Drugs” is a fucking oxy-MORON and any politician who defends it is a fucking MORON. It has never worked. Not only did it introduce young children to drugs but all it’s ever been is a “feel good” policy to make our elected leaders feel good about themselves. DARE is also another joke as is every rights group out there. Million Moms, MADD … they are all fucking jokes of a failed society. The best educational tool we could have is our parents, our family, NOT the fucking government, preaching to us what they think we should be doing.

Respect the cops? Nobody respects cops because they are always violating our civil and constitutional rights, suppressing our right to assemble and protest and throwing their weight around like they are God with a gun.

This is why criminals are always targeting cops with impunity. Long as you have overzealous cops out there victimizing innocent civilians, you will always have civilians targeting cops.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Two simple changes:

(Right, let’s try a tab instead of an enter this time…)

1 – A conviction of the owner, including a finding in court that the property in question was either used in, or was ill-gotten gains resulting from, illegal activity before property is seized.

2 – Any property/money seized is funneled to the local public defender’s office in it’s entirety, with not so much as a cent going to the police or government agency involved in the siezure.

Two simple changes that would all but eliminate asset forfeiture overnight.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

If Trump should fire Sessions...

Let’s all agree that if Trump should fire Sessions, we’ll give Trump a free pass. No feverish comparisons to the Watergate “Saturday Night Massacre,” etc. I might even send him a bottle of champagne…

(Trump has repeatedly complained that Sessions let him down by not shutting down the Russia investigations.)

PaulT (profile) says:

“Whenever I ask adults around age 30 about prevention, they always mention the DARE program.”

I was under the impression that the DARE program was widely seen as a joke, which largely backfired once the kids got a bit older, saw that the scaremongering over weed was largely false information, and made them aware of what other drugs were out there to try.

I’m sure nobody’s saying this to Sessions’ face, but unless I’ve been talking to an extremely niche cross-section of Americans (possible, given that I usually talk to intelligent Americans with some experience outside of their home town) it’s not generally considered a success by those who went through it. Commenters here are free to correct me, of course.

“We know drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun. There is no doubt that violence tends to rise with increased drug dealing.”

It was said, and is worth repeating – that’s an excellent argument for making drugs legal, or at least to go down the route of Portugal. It’s a little disturbing that it’s apparently being used to push further enforcement instead.

“In 2015, we as a nation suffered the largest single-year increase in the violent crime rate since 1991, and the largest jump in the murder rate since 1968.”

Which, as mentioned, means nothing without context and data from a few years afterwards. I experienced a nearly 15% rise in my wages last year due to a higher than average annual cost of living raise and a few bonuses.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to get 15% more this year, and certainly doesn’t mean that I can go out and buy that boat just yet. I would hope that those in charge also wouldn’t make rash decisions based on a single year’s data.

Oh, and since there’s an XKCD for everything: https://xkcd.com/605/

Chuck says:

Maybe it's his fault?

TFA does a great job breaking down how wrong all of this is. I just wanted to point out two little things:

1) In 2015 violent crime went up 0.7%. Even though it has been steadily declining under Obama (and to his credit, Dubya before him, and Bill Clinton before him, and Bush Senior before him…), it suddenly starts to climb, however slowly, just as Obama is about to leave office.

2) In 2016, it had a slight uptick in murders, even though violent crime for 2016 as a whole (at least through September, which is as far as I can find numbers for) was down overall. Still, murders went up steadily as it became more and more obvious (to some) that Trump might seriously have a shot at winning.

So…my question is this: did it ever occur to Sessions that maybe, just maybe, the spike in violent crime might be HIS fault? Maybe people had been not murderin’ and assaultin’ and were waiting as long as they could, but then they saw the “tough on crime” republicans might return to power and decided to run go do all their violent crime as quickly as they could, such that they would be charged and sentenced under Obama-era law?

(Not that it would do them any good. The crimes Obama was “soft” on were things like possession, i.e. non-violent crime anyway. Obama was no more soft on murders and such than any other president, despite Sessions’s narrative. But yanno, facts and such.)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. They only didn’t work if the aim was reducing drug usage. If the actual aim was expanding the for-profit prison population and the police state, disproportionately attacking minorities, expanding CIA involvement in the third world, etc., then it seems to have worked perfectly. It’s only the general acceptance and legalisation of marijuana and the increase in meth/prescription drug abuse in white communities that don’t seem to have been correctly accounted for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here's where this inexorably leads

There’s an interesting case in Baltimore that popped into the news this week. Here’s the Baltimore Sun’s story:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-body-camera-footage-20170719-story.html

Here’s the short version: in January the cops bust a guy for heroin. Guy goes to jail. He can’t make the 50K bail, and he maintains his innocence — and won’t plead out — so he’s there for 6 months.

Fast-forward. Bodycam footage turns up which shows the arresting officer planting the drugs just prior to the arrest. This only happens because the bodycam saves 30 seconds of video prior to activation. Now all hell is breaking loose, because EVERY SINGLE ARREST by this officer must now be questioned.

Pop quiz time:

1. Do you think that this is the first time this officer has pulled this stunt?

2. Do you think he’s the only one doing this?

3. Do you think this practice will increase or decrease if assert forfeiture is promulgated?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's where this inexorably leads

Stories like that always piss me off so much not just because of the injustice that they have inflicted upon the populace but because the story always includes a line like this that reads: “One officer has been suspended and two others have been placed on administrative duty” instead of “3 officers have been arrested”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: take it easy

What should worry those who are appeased by the previous statement is that at the current rate they will soon run out of brown people to put in prison and will have to start putting white people in there too. The for-profit prison industry is a monster that is never appeased, and must be slain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Does anybody remember “Red Ribbon Day” from middle school. Very similar to D.A.R.E. but they gave us ribbons to pin to our shirts that had anti-drug messages on them. I remember getting one that said “I’ve got better things to do than drugs”, I folded it just right so that it read “I’ve got better drugs”. The whole thing was nothing but a big joke.

Ninja (profile) says:

In an intensity from 1 to 1000 where 1 is the least addicting and 1000 the most addicting marijuana sits near the bottom with a score of 100. Alcohol scores 400 and crack 1000. This was told me by a psychologist friend of mine that deals with addicted people. Then I asked her why the fucking fucks is marijuana illegal and alcohol not. She shrugged. And we didn’t even talk about prescription painkillers.

Along with that scale, there is the question of how prone to addiction a person is. It seems there are several factors that determine if a person will or will not be addicted. One may be genetics. There are studies all around dealing with this component. There’s the psychological dependence as well which happens when the drug is being used as an escape from a crappy life or a serious problem. Then there is the intensity of the addictive effect as I mentioned above. So summarizing people won’t necessarily get addicted just like they aren’t to alcohol. From my experience I seriously like a good drink, specially with vodka or sake and I always have them available at home but you’ll see me making a drink like twice or three times a month and I rarely get high. I’ve also had experience with marijuana (the first time was pure accident but not the others) and I use it with the same frequency I drink except that some of the time I use for pain and inflammation. I have a friend on the other hand that keeps a safe distance between him and alcohol or virtually any drug because he has had problems with addiction in the past with more than one substance.

Sessions is doing stuff based on his own flawed beliefs and this is going to be bad for everybody. Somebody should give him prescription marijuana for pain. It’s so goddamn effective that he will change his mind at the very least for medical use. At his age I just know he goes through a lot of chronic pain without even realizing it.

Know what you are talking about, check scientific studies, analyze social behavior. Be a responsible public servant.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Indeed. There are plenty of cases of people with seizures getting better by using cannabidiol (one of the substances in marijuana other than THC), I have an older friend who is going to try it for his seizures. Of course if you have your own agenda and can’t bother to look beyond it towards what is better to the citizens then it doesn’t matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a lot of misinformation on both sides.

I hear over and over again about the Opioid crisis, and every commercial starts out with someone saying “I hurt my back” or “I was a college football player and got hurt” when talking about how they were introduced to Opioids and then heroin. The commercials would have you believe that most drug overdoses happen to people who started their drug journey with medical issues.

There was a study done recently where they looked at over 135K drug overdoes, only about 13% involved medical issues of any kind.

I agree though, people want to do drugs, let them, it is their life, but they need to take responsibility for their choices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The commercials seem to want to indicate that most people that end up overdosing on drugs (mostly heroin), you know, that epidemic that is out there, started their drug use because they got hooked on prescription drugs and later went on to heroin.

This study showed that was only the case in 13% of over 135K drug overdoses.

I am not claiming anything, just stating the facts of that study.

It does guide me on how we should combat this drug overdose issue. An Ohio state senator asked if EMS should be sent to someone who has OD’ed twice already. His town is struggling to pay for this service. Should I care about people that OD? Studies also show that the increased use of heroin is largely by white people, so leave your race baiting out of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My race baiting? … Where was that, exactly?

You assume the study is flawless, not that it matters – unless you work in the pharma industry.

Your complaint is solely with the tv ads but everyone knows tv ads can broadcast all sorts of non-truthyness – right?

“Should I care about people that OD?”

idk, should you?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hmmm but what about those who are addicted but never overdosed? What if in that group the percentage of addicted people that have medical issues and got in through opioids is larger?

And even then, you are saying about 15k people died from drug overdoses had medical conditions. Sounds like an awful lot of people to me to the point I would consider something to deal with before it became even larger, no? Percentages can be deceiving just as the numbers themselves when compared to bigger numbers. Let’s not forget that even though they are 15k in 300 million it’s an entire small town wiped out. Per year.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It might be a lack of respect for law enforcement, which Sessions feels is a failure of the American public, rather than the failures of those who serve them.”

I actually agree with Session on this. It is America’s fault for putting Trump in that got Sessions in! yep, DEFINITELY agree here!

Who could respect that fucking twit!?

Anonymous Coward says:

Folks, let me tell you – creating jobs is hard. Manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, coal jobs aren’t coming back. What’s left? Corrections jobs.

That’s what this is all about.

More prisoners = more prisons = more corrections jobs

Just wait until everyone who supports it gets their tax bill. It all sounds wonderful to them until they figure out who has to pay for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

On that note, manufacturing jobs will only come back when there is a financial incentive big enough to make a difference to the bottom line of a company.

Manufacturing has been off-shored for a reason, companies can use it to reduce expenses in various areas while increasing the salaries and bonuses of those who are reducing the workforce.

It is only when an unbiased look at the books is undertaken can one see whether or not it is of benefit for those manufacturing jobs to be brought back.

Some time ago, I came across an interview with a company that had off-shored its production facilities to China. After a period of time, they looked at all the expenses and time wasting involved in getting their products manufactured in China. Once they looked at all costs, they found that it would be better to find local American manufacturers to build their products. Even though the base cost was far increased over the foreign based costs, the lack of ancillary costs based on incorrect manufacturing and product failures more than made up for the increased based costs.

Having been in various companies over the decades that have undertaken this outsourcing approach, there have been very few financial successes.

Decades ago a suggestion was made here to have a flat service rate for phone systems. That is you paid an annual fee based on the time you had the service during that year, no other charges would apply other than international calls. So in the suggestion, the consumer would pay nothing for any local, state or national calls. The calculations included the costs for running the simplified billing system, as opposed to the existing system at the time.

The estimated upshot is that more profits would be made (significantly more profits) by implementing a simplified billing system. Based on what I knew at the time working at that company, I would agree with him.

Too often, the ideas of capturing all data possible and of making a profit from that data are in conflict. The amount of cost in running billing systems is enormous (particularly in the kinds of industry like power, telecommunications, transport, etc) with the cost of software (ongoing), software maintenance (ongoing), data collection (ongoing), data storage (ongoing), data analysis (ongoing) and hardware infrastructure (ongoing) continually increasing.

I have worked in a variety of industries and have looked at billing systems as a part of the kind of work I did, and massive amounts of expense in software, hardware, human time, etc is a result of the complicated billing systems that organisations put in place.

Hugh costs savings could be made just by getting rid of the complex billing systems in use today. That does not include savings that one would expect from HR doing retrenchments. These retrenchments would themselves be redundant because there are many tasks not undertaken by a company that could then be done, just because of the amount of effort required for the billing systems.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re: Intangibles

Good, solid observations. The only thing I’d add is that we should also consider other, equally important, intangible costs and benefits with offshoring. What value would a "Made in America" label have in a garment, or on a piece of consumer electronics?

There are other intangibles; both France and Germany have successfully retained their manufacturing bases whilst the UK has sold most of their national assets to foreign outfits. All three are wealthy nations, but I would argue that the UK has created a strategic weakness for itself. It has no national steel-making capabilities, no national car marques, even it’s power generation is being outsourced to China.

Anonymous Coward says:

Weed not quite legal

weed… is now a socially and medically-accepted drug, legal in several states.

Legal in state law, but still illegal under federal law. A pharmacy that tried to sell it might find itself raided by the FBI, or have its bank accounts cut off, etc. So dispensaries remain quasi-legal cash-only businesses, their clients can be arrested, and we can expect the DOJ to make things worse.

Personanongrata says:

Failure is the Only Option

DOJ Boss Promises The Return Of Everything That Didn’t Work During The Last 40 Years Of Drug Warring

How unlike the US government and the defectoids operating within to double, triple and quadruple down on a failed and arbitrary multi-generational boondoggle that seeks to control what substances adults choose to ingest at a direct cost of greater than $1 trillion US dollars and the decimation of millions of lives.

http://www.drugpolicy.org/wasted-tax-dollars

Only a petty authoritarian control freak would seek to decide what consenting adults can and can not ingest.

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