Trump Administration To Increase Marijuana Arrests And Grow Private Prison Industry

Drug War, News, War on the Poor

The U.S. Justice Department has reversed an order by the Obama administration to phase out the private prison industry. Meanwhile, Sean Spicer announced we will see “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws even if it is legal in the state. Even though many states have legalized the plant that has recently grown great popularity for its many health benefits, it is still considered illegal at a federal level.

Reuters reported that in a memo made public on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Obama policy impaired the government’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal prison system.

Many have become opponents of the private prison industry, calling it a form of slavery that imprisons non violent people who cannot afford to buy their way out of their sentence, and forces them to do labor for the profit of those running the prisons while giving the prisoners terrible living conditions.

The Obama administration said in August 2016 it planned a gradual phase-out of private prisons by letting contracts expire or by scaling them back to a level consistent with recent declines in the U.S. prison population.The private prisons were found to be much less safe and were not an acceptable substitute for government run prisons.

The Trump administration made the move to support business profits rather than try to address the problems of the prison industry. They chose to go back to the failed system that was in place previously.

“The (Obama administration) memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system. Therefore, I direct the bureau to return to its previous approach,” Sessions said in a letter dated Tuesday to Thomas Kane, acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Stock prices of 2 leading U.S. private prison companies saw big increases almost immediately, with GEO Group Inc up 2.15 percent and CoreCivic Inc up 3.44 percent.

Thirteen of the federal government’s 146 prisons are privately run. Together, those 13 housed 22,600 inmates as of December 2015, down from about 40,000 in 2014, according to Reuters.

Rather than reconsider the massive imprisonment of non violent people, the Bureau of Prisons began contracting with private companies in 1997 at a time of severe prison over-crowding.

Coincidentally, at the same time the Justice Dept made this announcement, Sean Spicer announced the “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws.  This announcement seems strange in light of the growing number of states that have legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana use and the increasing body of knowledge that shows it to be a great medication for many ailments.

Supposedly differentiating between medical and recreational marijuana users, Spicer suggests they may differentiate between the 2 groups even though the federal law does not differentiate.

 

President Donald Trump “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” he said, also noting previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “go[ing] after those folks.”  Spicer continued, As for “recreational marijuana, that’s a very, very different subject,” reported Politico.

The Obama administration did not interfere with states’ decisions to legalize marijuana and focused its enforcement efforts on other drugs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, though, has been a foe of legal marijuana in the past, prompting advocates for legalization to worry that the Justice Department might change course.

Spicer noted opiod addiction as a reason for stomping on state rights. Spicer chooses to ignore the fact the opioids are not marijuana and there is no scientific evidence proving marijuana use increases use of other drugs. However, there is evidence that alcohol is a “gateway drug.”

“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said.

In response, The National Cannabis Industry Association’s executive director Aaron Smith issued a statement asserting that “it would be a mistake for the Department of Justice to overthrow the will of the voters and state governments who have created carefully regulated adult-use marijuana programs.” Mark Malone, the executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, cited the results of a study that concluded that legalizing medical marijuana might actually decrease opioid use.

Increase in arrests for personal marijuana use while increasing for profit prisons seems like a bad combination for all U.S. citizens.  It is a step backwards when so many states are trying to look forward and find better, positive ways to deal with overcrowded prisons. The Trump administration wants to fill the prisons even more and remove people’s ability to provide for their families by making them unpaid laborers for the prison industry.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)

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