No Justice or Mercy in Donald Trump’s Department of Justice

In the introduction to his book, “Just Mercy,” Bryan Stevenson writes: “This book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America. It’s about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create, when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Stevenson states in his book, “We (U.S.) have shot, hanged, gassed, electrocuted, and lethally injected hundreds of people to carry out legally sanctioned executions. Thousands more await their executions on death row.”

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, increasing from 300,000 in the 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are six million people on probation or parole. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, 1 in every 15 people born in the United States in 2001 are likely to go to jail or prison.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics states that there are more than a half-million people in state or federal prisons for drug offenses today, up from 41,000 in 1980. State and federal government spending has increased from $6.9 million dollars in 1980 to $80 million dollars today.

U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, named after the President of the Confederate States of America, has shifted the paradigm of prison reform established under the Obama administration. His policies are reverting back to the late 1990s “War on Crime.”

On Aug. 1, Sessions appointed retired General Mark S. Inch, to head the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Inch had previously been responsible for detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his term, the operation was plagued by accusations of torture and abuse.

Inch’s appointment was made just a couple days after the President spoke to law enforcement in Long Island, N.Y. Trump repeatedly called suspects “thugs” and “animals” and suggested police abuse was acceptable.

Sessions has announced a return to pre-Obama policies of seeking maximum penalties for all drug crimes, including low-level, non-violent offenses. The Justice Department under Sessions recently announced plans to reinstate the use of “asset forfeiture” especially with drug crime suspects.

This practice allows law enforcement to take possession of suspects’ assets, such as cars or money, even before a suspect has been indicted or evidence has even been presented that a crime has been committed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder restricted the ability of the federal government to take possession of assets or accept assets seized by local authorities.
Sessions has stated that his top priorities are cracking down on illegal immigration and stopping violent crimes. He has stressed the need to tackle gang activities, including drug offenses, which in his assessment is the precursor to violent crimes.

According to Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center Justice’s Program, “Many of the Justice Department’s recent policy changes have been solutions in search of a problem and are going to make our crime and mass incarceration problems worse.”

Our history has proven that the “War on Crime” is virtually a war on Black and Brown people. We have more Black people under the age of sixteen in our prisons with mandatory life sentences, than any other country in the world. In my opinion, this administration will be one of the cruelest since the post-Reconstruction Period.

Sherry Cannon

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