Jeff Sessions is trying to reignite the War on Drugs, but we can’t let him.
Just this morning, Sessions released a memo ordering all 94 U.S. Attorneys to seek out the harshest possible sentences for drug offenses–undoing years of work and reversing the historic policy reforms of former Attorney General Eric Holder.1
Mandatory minimum sentencing disproportionately affects and targets Black people and has been widely condemned for years. A review of federal mandatory sentences showed that Black people are given mandatory minimum sentences at the HIGHEST rate–more than any other group of people.2 Not only is mandatory minimum sentencing racist, research has proven that it’s completely ineffective in curbing drug use.3 The only real purpose this serves is to fill prisons with our people and fill the pockets of private prison companies. Almost HALF of the entire federal prison population consists of people serving time for drug offenses.4
We need to shut down this clear attempt to fuel mass incarceration, but we have to act fast. Momentum is building against Sessions–even GOP senator, Rand Paul acknowledged the racist history of mandatory minimums and denounced Sessions’ move.5 Now, we’re calling on Congress to block Sessions’ attempts to reignite the War on Drugs. Sentencing reform has bipartisan support in Congress and if we apply enough pressure, we can make sure Sessions can’t dismantle the gains we’ve made in ending mass incarceration. Will you sign the petition?
It’s no surprise Sessions wants to pack our people into prisons, because Trump cut a deal with the industry that would profit most from it: private prison companies. Campaign finance advocates have filed federal complaints challenging the hundreds of thousands in illegal campaign contributions that GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the country, gave to Trump’s campaign.6 So it’s absolutely no secret why one of the first things Sessions undid was the ban on federal private prisons. And given his statement that he needed to meet the “future needs of the federal correctional system,” it’s even more evident why he would push for longer and harsher prison sentences.7
Sessions is trying to ensure as many people are incarcerated for as long as possible by ordering prosecutors to send people to prison with a one-size-fits-all approach, instead of allowing prosecutors to determine what makes the most sense based on the circumstances of each case. His guidance forces prosecutors to determine sentences based solely on the amount of drugs found. What does that mean? It means that someone facing a drug charge for the very first time, with no prior convictions, no violent history, could face life in prison simply because of the quantity of drugs they have.
Sharanda Jones is one of the people who was subjected to these unfair and cruel sentencing laws. In the late 90s, Sharanda was subject to a targeted attack on Black residents of Terrell, Texas that led to the arrest of more than 100 Black people for low-level crack cocaine offenses. In an effort to expand the government informant program, prosecutors gave deals to people who snitched and pushed for cruel and unusual sentences for those who didn’t. Sharanda didn’t snitch on a couple she knew who was dealing drugs, and though there was never any evidence that she ever possessed or sold drugs, and this was her first offense ever, she was sentenced to LIFE in prison.8 Luckily, she gained clemency and was released by the Obama administration. If not, she would still be in prison today.
We can’t let Sessions cause even more pain for Black families by unfairly throwing people away under these cruel laws.
Until justice is real,
— Rashad, Arisha, Scott, Clarise, Anay, Malaya, Enchanta, Katrese, and the rest of the Color Of Change team.
1. “Jeff Sessions Rolls Back Obama-Era Drug Sentencing Reforms,” The Huffington Post, 05-12-2017
2. “The impact of mandatory minimum penalties in federal sentencing,” Sentencing Project, 01-01-2016,
4. “Number of People Serving Time For Drug, Violent, Property, and Other Offenses In US Prisons,” US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 12-01-2016,
5. “Dr. Rand Paul Releases Statement on Attorney General’s Action on Mandatory Minimums,” Rand Paul, United States Senator for Kentucky, 05-12-2017
6. “Pay-toPlay on Full Display? Private Prison Contractor Reaps Benefits from Illegal Campaign Spending,” The Campaign Legal Center, 04-17-2017
7. “Jeff Sessions Believes Private Prisons Help Meet the ‘Future Needs of the Federal Correctional System’,” The Root, 02-23-2017
8. “From A First Arrest To A Life Sentence,” The Washington Post, 07-15-2015