The regional divide that might result from tougher federal drug crime sentencing

May 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is taking a hard stance on federal drug crime sentencing, reversing earlier attempts by the Obama administration to reduce the severity of punishment for low-level offenders.

This change could drive regional, geographic disparities in who gets sentenced and for how long, said Mona Lynch, professor of criminology, law and society. In many states, the legal culture has changed since the drug war mentality of the 1990s. Despite the new policy from the attorney general, these places still have considerable autonomy, and could act independently. Other places may embrace more severe punishments.

"This policy may only increase the divide between jurisdictions that collectively eschew aggressive federal drug prosecutions and those that dive back into the harsh practices of an older era," Lynch said.

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