Jeff Sessions, Republican Attorney General, is already bringing major reform as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ). In the past few months, the cop has made leaps and bounds in overturning policies from the Obama administration, as well as reigniting the federal fight against high crime in the U.S.
Sessions was quick to help repeal the nondiscrimination laws placed last year that allowed transgender students to use restrooms corresponding with their chosen identities, issuing a joint letter in February with the Education Department that rejected such protections. The action took place on the grounds of restoring states’ rights. In a statement from the White House:
“The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.”
Sessions also dissolved the Obama administration’s recent plans to phase out the government’s use of private prisons. This can be attributed to his desire for a “crack-down” on lawbreaking throughout the U.S., a mindset that will increase traffic to prisons across the nation.
Co-director from Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program Alex Whiting expressed doubt that the rest of the DOJ would back Session’s efforts to increase enforcement against violent crime:
“Obama moved away from that approach, and I think in the criminal justice world there seemed to be a consensus between the right and left that those policies, those rigid policies of the war on drugs and trying to get the highest sentence all the time, had failed.”
Sessions has put a new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety in place, headed by federal prosecutor Steven Cook.
He believes that dramatic efforts taken against violent crime in the U.S. are highly necessary, but is facing push-back from people who do not think that mass incarceration is the proper way to handle the predicted heightened crime rates. Inimai Chettiar, director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, openly stated his disapproval:
“Mass incarceration is not contributing to mass crime declines, but it doesn’t appear Jeff Sessions knows that.”
On the other side of the coin, Sessions has received praise for his efforts against violent crime. National Sheriff’s Association executive director Jonathan Thompson expressed his support for the reform movements:
“I think Sessions has brought a new focus to the core mission of the department, which is to make sure the nation is safe and secure in its law and make sure law enforcement operations are focused on the thing that matters most, preventing crime.”
Sessions is working hard to combat illegal immigration issues in the US. In March, he announced that the federal government would refuse grant money to any non-compliant state or local governments that refused to turn over their illegal immigrants. The General put these “sanctuary counties” on notice. DOJ spokesman Ian Prior stated:
“When it comes to sanctuary cities, all we are requiring is that they, just like every other individual in the United States, follow Congress’ duly enacted laws. If requiring individuals and entities to follow the law and combating violent crime are seen as dramatic reversals, then we fully support such a sea change.”
Last month, the DOJ announced the development of the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), according to the Daily Caller. The program uses hearings, online and face-to-face, to deport illegal immigrants after they have served time in prison.
Plans are being made to instate the IHP in more prisons across the nation. In a statement about this recent announcement, the Attorney General said:
We owe it to the American people to ensure that illegal aliens who have been convicted of crimes and are serving time in our federal prisons are expeditiously removed from our country as the law requires. This expansion and modernization of the Institutional Hearing Program gives us the tools to continue making Americans safe again in their communities.
In his bold steps of justice, Sessions is temporarily operating on his own. In March, he called for the resignation of over 40 lawyers that would remain loyal to former-president Obama. In April, he has yet to fill these positions. He is facing criticism for not filling the seats with supportive and passionate staff, to which he responded they need to work hard at it.
Despite his lack of a “team,” Jeff Sessions has still caused major impact and change in the DOJ in his few months of leadership. What comes next for this passionate Attorney General?
Credit: The Hill