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Expert: New prison penalties pushed by AG Jeff Sessions alarming, unnecessary

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — The vast majority of criminal suspects in the U.S. will now be punished to the fullest extent of the law, if Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets his way.

Sessions directed federal prosecutors on Friday to pursue the most serious charges and seek the longest prison terms possible against most suspects, ending many of the Obama Administration’s policies.

Caroline Issacs with the American Friends Service Committee, a criminal justice reform group, said there is no legitimate public safety justification for this policy.

“This is an alarming about-face on what was a national consensus and trend across the political spectrum,” Isaacs said.

Even before the Obama-era policies, Isaacs said, there was bipartisan agreement that we can’t incarcerate our way out of problems, like drug addiction.

“And that alternative approaches are not just good cost-saving measures, but also work better at reducing crime,” she said.

Arizona taxpayers pay around $1 billion a year to house just under 48,000 inmates, which is roughly 11 percent of the state’s general fund.

There’s simply no reason for this, said Isaacs.

“Crime rates are at historic lows, [and] there’s broad consensus that the war on drugs has been an absolute failure,” she said.

Isaacs hopes the growing group of federal and local officials across the country who have been joining the push for criminal justice reform, in an attempt to undo the damaging effects of mass incarceration, will hold their ground, despite Sessions’ new policy.

“Because I want to believe that the decisions they make in terms of their policies are based on what actually works,” she said. “And not optics, and not politics and not special interests.”

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