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Kiriakou writes: "Majorities of both parties in Congress support some form of sentencing reform, and they said so with their votes in favor of bills that would have shortened sentences and done away with many mandatory minimums. Until Donald Trump was elected president, that is."

Senator Jeff Sessions with Donald Trump at a campaign rally. (photo: Taylor Hill/WireImage)
Senator Jeff Sessions with Donald Trump at a campaign rally. (photo: Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Trump-Sessions: Expect the Worst for Prison Reform

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

01 December 16


’ve written in the past that the United States has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Most of those prisoners are people of color, and most of them are serving time for drug crimes. Majorities of both parties in Congress support some form of sentencing reform, and they said so with their votes in favor of bills that would have shortened sentences and done away with many mandatory minimums. Until Donald Trump was elected president, that is.

Before the election, a myriad of law enforcement organizations called on both major presidential candidates to publicly support an overhaul of the criminal justice system — including sentencing reform — to reduce crime and to improve relations between police and citizens. The move came in the aftermath of repeated failed attempts in Congress to pass comprehensive sentencing reform legislation.

Civil liberties groups have demanded sentencing reform for years. They thought they had a real chance in 2014 when a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act of 2014 (S. 1675). The bill easily passed the Judiciary Committee. A similar bill, the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 (S. 1410), also passed the committee. Both bills also passed through the House Judiciary Committee. They died on the Senate floor, though, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to call them up for a vote. A year later, the new majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also refused to allow a vote. This was despite President Obama’s vocal support for reform.

Both bills, which would have eased sentencing guidelines, done away with mandatory minimum sentences for most drug crimes, and offered incentives for federal prisoners that would have allowed early release for good behavior and for taking GED or vocational classes, had the support of groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union, the conservative Heritage Foundation, former prosecutors, police and prison guard organizations, victims’ advocates, prominent conservatives, and faith groups.

The truth is that both bills were good ideas. We have too many “crimes” in the U.S. The only reason they didn’t become law is that two stubborn congressional leaders wouldn’t allow it. Now, with the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general, sentencing reform is all but dead.

The non-profit Marshall Project wrote recently that things will likely change quickly under Sessions. The new attorney general “helped block broader drug sentencing reform in the Senate this year despite wide bipartisan support, saying it would release ‘violent felons’ into the street.” He will also be tasked with carrying out the new president’s policies on private prisons. The Marshall Project noted that candidate Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in June that “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.” Just weeks before the election, Geo Group, the second largest private prison corporation in America, hired two former Sessions aides to lobby in favor of outsourcing federal corrections to private contractors.

Sessions was known as a vigorous prosecutor of drug cases when he served as the U.S. attorney in Alabama in the 1980s. The Marshall Project notes that he believes that the Obama administration erred by prosecuting fewer, but more serious, drug cases. He said in a March Judiciary Committee hearing that “The prison population is declining at a rapid rate. And at the same time, drug use is surging and deaths are occurring. And in my opinion, it’s going to get worse.” Most Americans will likely read that to mean that there will certainly be more, not fewer, drug prosecutions and more, not fewer, people going to prison on Sessions’ watch.

But that’s not all the damage Sessions can do. He can advise Trump to issue executive orders that would countermand those executive orders related to reform that were issued by Obama. With the stroke of a pen, for example, Trump could overturn the federal ban on solitary confinement for juveniles. He can, and likely will, overturn the policy of transitioning away from private prisons. Expect the worst.

I wish there were some sign that something, somewhere, related to criminal justice, sentencing reform, and the so-called war on drugs will improve. There is none. Sessions and Trump are the enemies of civil liberties. They are the enemies of reform. Obama’s criminal justice reform policy changes are over. Expect the prisons to fill up again.

"John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act - a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program."

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+25 # DongiC 2016-12-01 13:05
So the big slide backwards begins. Suffering for the poor and helpless will increase. The rich will get richer and the super rich will come to dominate. The prisons will fill up and the environment will continue to deteriorate. The MIC will prosper and the president's fortunes will multiply. Meanwhile, Medicare is under attack and jobs in the rust bucket states are becoming scarce. Is this how America becomes great?
+27 # librarian1984 2016-12-01 13:23
I want the Dems to fight a Sessions appointment. We have to pick our battles -- and this is one worth having.
+14 # PeacefulGarden 2016-12-01 14:32
I think we, the American people, not the House and Senate, will see this moron slip into his position unopposed. We really do not have a Democratic Party anymore, the Democrats are and always have been, the enablers.

Jeffery "Plantation" Sessions will take a whip to the poor people of the USA. There is too much money to be made beating the shit out of people without leverage.

Wall Street is drooling. The private prison complex and the militarization of police force will be the next big investment. The Democrats will be on board with the money making.
+15 # librarian1984 2016-12-01 15:42
I saw Rep. Green (D-TX) on a CSPAN call-in show this morning. Almost all the calls were very angry. Many are worried about Social Security and Medicare being privatized, but the majority of the calls were just plain ol' mad at the DP.

One guy summed it up very well, saying (as close as I can remember), 'The Democrats have done nothing to help anyone. And now you give us Schumer? You give us Pelosi? You give us Clinton? Obamacare is a monstrosity and the prices are going UP? You should be ashamed. The Democrats are a disgrace.'

Green did not address anything but the ACA, and he says, the Democrats did the best we could. We thought we would be able to make improvements in the following years but the Republicans have prevented it.

One could have sworn he was deaf, but I hope the many many other calls expressing anger made a dent. I am so sick of the whole parasitic lot of them.

Sessions is bad in so many ways.
-3 # Robbee 2016-12-01 19:48
Quoting librarian1984:
Sessions is bad in so many ways.

- in his nomination acceptance speech rump promised to "win the war on drugs" - what did you expect? - a great america? again?
+3 # lfeuille 2016-12-02 16:47
Of course Republicans prevented it. The only way they could have prevented the Republicans from preventing it would have been to not lose Congress and the only way they could have done that is to deliver for the 99% in the first 2 years.
Why are they so oblivious to the fact that they can lose elections so they have to get as much as possible every time they hold power.
-1 # thekidde 2016-12-03 13:59
Guess no one told these piss ants that paybacks are hell. Ask Adolf or Benito, Eh?
+5 # angelfish 2016-12-01 18:51
I try to comfort myself with the thought that when Trump. at LONG last, arrives in Prison he will get the SAME mercy he has shown to those who have no resources with which to fight him and his Draconian Plans for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in our Penal system. I try to imagine this fool trying to cope with the stress of mingling with the general population whose dearest wish is to serve him his JUST desserts!
+6 # John S. Browne 2016-12-01 22:39

Nice wish that Trump end up in prison, but he will NEVER see prison. Do you know of a single nominated U.S. president who has gone to prison? No, you don't, and it will never be allowed to happen, period. Were that I was wrong. One doesn't get to be a billionaire without being a criminal; and, once such scum as "T-Rump" become president, they're protected for life, including their future crimes. Hell, if they want to have sex with children, the Secret Service helps protect them in that pursuit. The Secret Service has helped, and no doubt still helps, both male and female underage prostitutes get into the White House. The FBI has been involved, and undoubtedly is still involved, in child trafficking, and many other evils, both in the U.S. and globally.

(Continued below)
+3 # bbaldwin2001 2016-12-02 10:32
Don't ever say never.... It is a possibility.
+2 # John S. Browne 2016-12-02 22:11

(Continued from above)

We have an extremely evil government now, and they protect their own. All those who literally sell their souls to evil for furthering the "Fourth Reich" corporate-fasci st agenda, and their global world domination and enslavement under globalism, which they must do or they would be assassinated (or not be allowed into the office of president in the first place), are rewarded for life. They get away with literal murder while serving as president, and they could get away with literal murder after leaving office. They are ALL the ultimate scum, and if you think "Odrona" is any exception, you are still a fool and living in dreamland. Welcome to evil government ever-increasing ly on steroids. It is only going to get worse and worse, and that is NOT pessimism, it is just a fact.

+5 # lfeuille 2016-12-02 16:48
Presidents don't go to prison.
+13 # tedrey 2016-12-01 19:14
Tom Jefferson thought we should have a revolution every twenty years or so. We're way overdue.
0 # Glen 2016-12-02 07:44
Thomas Jefferson was in France when he said that, referring to France and royalty, not the U.S. What type of revolution are you wanting?
+1 # ReconFire 2016-12-02 18:34
Quoting Glen:
Thomas Jefferson was in France when he said that, referring to France and royalty, not the U.S. What type of revolution are you wanting?

I'll say it even though it won't be popular.....The kind that will give us OUR country back. No it won't be pretty, and it won't be fun, but it's the only way we're going to get back.
+1 # thekidde 2016-12-03 14:03
A revolution that calls out right wing fascism, self-enriching pols and business miscreants who aggregate far more riches than they are worth to the planet. Barring that ropes and bullets. Imagine Drumpf, a rope and an old gas station. Mussolini revisited.
+1 # tedrey 2016-12-05 16:47
For the record, Jefferson (though in France) was specifically referring to Shay's Rebellion in Massachusetts and not "France and Royalty." He also explains his reasoning. Check your sources again and you'll find that I am right.
+7 # Indie 2016-12-02 06:02
Even with voter suppression, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a substantial margin. He has filled his cabinet with billionaires and racists. No presidents and few wealthy white men have gone to prison. And we say a pledge, "with liberty and justice for all." Nobody should be above the law. Sessions must be rejected as attorney general. Every member of congress should be deluged with telephone calls during the hearing on Sessions. If Alabama found him too racist to be a judge, congress must find him too racist to be attorney general. It is not the bank robber who is the major criminal, it is the banker. The people have been robbed of an election. Our country has been robbed of its democracy. Let us put the real criminals in prison. Or at the very least take away the keys from them by denying everyone of Trump's nominees for his cabinet.
+6 # Realist1948 2016-12-02 07:48
In my state, it costs an estimated $38,268 to house each inmate for a year. There has been little political opposition to spending at this level, either here or in other states. Ditto for spending on federal prisons (or privately run prisons under federal contracts). Yet we've seen a reduction in financial support for higher education. More and more of the scholars who do manage to earn college degrees rack up substantial loan debts in the process.

The cost of a four year degree at an Ivy League school can easily top $200,000. But ten years in prison can cost twice that. Which expenditure is of more benefit to society?

With our country spending billions to lock people up, but reluctant to fund higher education, I fear for our future.
-4 # HowardMH 2016-12-02 10:40
A typical Trump cabinet meeting:

Trump to Mnuchin – “Steven I know you have a few Congressmen and Senators in your back pocket. Give them each a call and make sure no conflict of interest legislation stopping my Triple Trump Tower in Moscow from being approved by Putin ever reaches the floor for a vote”. Mnuchin to Trump – “No problem Donald. Also Donald, I have this little project in Argentina I need a little help getting approval on.” Trump to Mnuchin – Not a problem I have a scheduled call with him tomorrow and I will make sure I mention it.”

Trump to the whole cabinet – “Anyone else have any financial issues you are having trouble getting approved around the world that I can help you with? Wilbur Ross to Trump – I’m in on that Argentina deal with Steven – so thanks for the help on it”. Trumps closing comments: As for other business I told Putin yesterday that he could do whatever was necessary to complete his control of Syria and we would not interfere.”

Putin will have total control of at least two more counties and maybe up to 5 countries by the time Trump is gone.

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