Attorney General Jeff Sessions made criminal justice hard-liner Steven H. Cook one of his top lieutenants at the Justice Department, signaling a return to the racially biased “war on drugs” policy that led to mass incarceration, the Washington Post reports.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter!
According to The Post, Sessions and Cook are formulating a policy to step up drug and gun prosecutions, as well as enforcing mandatory minimum sentences.
After working as a police officer, Cook became a federal prosecutor and served as president of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. He rejects the growing chorus of voices calling for criminal justice reform. At a Washington Post criminal justice forum last year Cook said the justice system is “working exactly as designed.”
With the onslaught of the crack epidemic in the 1980s, Congress passed laws intended to get tough on crime. Former President Bill Clinton enacted a crime bill that included a “three-strike” rule that mandated life sentences.
That crime-fighting tactic led to mass incarceration, costing taxpayers $80 billion a year. The criminal justice system warehoused African-Americans in prison for drug offenses 10 times more than Whites, even though Blacks and Whites used drugs at roughly the same rate. Blacks also received disproportionately longer prison sentences for minor drug offenses
Elected officials on the left and right eventually saw a need for reform. Former President Barack Obama led the way, reducing the sentences of 1,715 low-level, non-violent drug offenders to address the disparities, including crack versus powder cocaine sentencing, which devastated the Black Community.
Bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation was moving through Congress in 2015, but tough-on-crime lawmakers stepped on the brakes. The Post pointed to Sessions, then an Alabama senator, as one of the fiercest reform opponents.
The National crime rate has dropped to about half of its 1991 high, according to the Brennan Center For Justice. Yet Sessions and others warned that a spike in places like Chicago signals a dangerous upswing. Cook was among those who testified, at congressional hearings, that reforming the criminal justice system would be a mistake.
“If hard-line means that my focus is on protecting communities from violent felons and drug traffickers, then I’m guilty,” Cook told The Post. “I don’t think that’s hard-line. I think that’s exactly what the American people expect of their Department of Justice.”
Happy Presidents' Day! 44 Photos To Make You Miss Obama
1. Barack Gives Daughter Malia a KissSource:Getty 1 of 42
2. Michelle and Barack tell the kids a storySource:Getty 2 of 42
3. Michelle and Barack KissSource:Getty 3 of 42
4. Michelle and BarackSource:Getty 4 of 42
5. First Family PortraitSource:Getty 5 of 42
6. Two TermsSource:Getty 6 of 42
7. Michelle and Barack host a State DinnerSource:Getty 7 of 42
8. Barack Obama and Michelle ObamaSource:Getty 8 of 42
9. The Obamas on Air Force OneSource:Getty 9 of 42
10. The First Family in LondonSource:Getty 10 of 42
11. First Lady Michelle Obama with daughters Malia Obama and Sasha ObamaSource:Getty 11 of 42
12. Sasha and Malia Obama at the 2016 State DinnerSource:Getty 12 of 42
13. Turkey PardoningSource:Getty 13 of 42
14. Sunday ChurchSource:Getty 14 of 42
15. Gobble, GobbleSource:Getty 15 of 42
16. Malia Obama, the First DaughterSource:Getty 16 of 42
17. Barack Obama and his daughter Malia ObamaSource:Getty 17 of 42
18. A Family AffairSource:Getty 18 of 42
19. Flashback To The Old DaysSource:Pete Souza 19 of 42
20. Happy Birthday!Source:Getty 20 of 42
21. Candidly AwesomeSource:Pete Souza 21 of 42
22. Historic First FamilySource:Getty 22 of 42
23. Ice Cream TreatSource:Getty 23 of 42
24. TV TimeSource:Pete Souza 24 of 42
25. Always Giving BackSource:Getty 25 of 42
26. A Christmas StorySource:Getty 26 of 42
27. Hawaii Trip!Source:Getty 27 of 42
28. Obama Loves Team USA & His WifeSource:Getty 28 of 42
29. Malia and Sasha ObamaSource:Getty 29 of 42
30. Michelle Plays on a BikeSource:Getty 30 of 42
31. Obama Loves Team USA, His Wife & MaliaSource:Getty 31 of 42
32. Reading TimeSource:Pete Souza 32 of 42
33. Family SupportSource:Getty 33 of 42
34. The Sister SelfieSource:Pete Souza 34 of 42
35. Supporting MomSource:Pete Souza 35 of 42
36. Giving Back On MLK DaySource:Getty 36 of 42
37. Obamas Give Back To The CommunitySource:Getty 37 of 42
38. Always Supporting Small BusinessesSource:Getty 38 of 42
39. Obama SwaggerSource:Getty 39 of 42
40. Laughs & TurkeysSource:Getty 40 of 42
41. Christmas With The ObamasSource:Getty 41 of 42
42. 50th Anniversary Of March On SelmaSource:Pete Souza 42 of 42
SOURCE: Washington Post