Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo to all federal prosecutors, with new directives for charging and sentencing in criminal cases. He’s directed federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most severe penalties possible and pursue mandatory minimum sentences where they’re available. We’re headed back into the war on drugs from the 80s and 90s…a war that did not end drug use or make anyone safer. Instead it ripped apart families, packed American prisons and resulted in long sentences for a lot of non violent drug offenders. Everyone seemed to agree that it was a disaster. Hell, even the Koch brothers agreed. During the Obama administration, there was bipartisan support for sentencing reform. And for the first time in decades, federal inmate numbers were down, and the Justice Dept made plans to stop sending inmates to private prisons.
But last month, Sessions decided to relaunch the war on drugs.
This is a show about a new dawn, a new day…crime and punishment in the Trump era.
This show is produced in collaboration with Seven Days. Click here for Mark Davis’ article on Jeff Sessions’ new charging directives.
Dan Sedon, Mark Kaplan, and Lisa Shelkrot are some of the smartest, most accomplished attorneys in Vermont. If ever you’re in trouble, I highly recommend calling one of them. You will be in excellent hands. For more information on each of them, click on their names below.
Dan Sedon, Esq., Sedon and Ericson, P.C., Chelsea, Vermont
Lisa Shelkrot, Esq., Langrock Sperry & Wool, Burlington, Vermont
Mark Kaplan, Esq., Kaplan and Kaplan, Burlington, Vermont
Music for this show is from Vermont musicians Peter Cressy, Brian Clark, and Mike Donofrio
Many thanks to Susan Randall, Mark Davis and former U.S. Attorney Charles Tetzlaff for their help on this show.
The issues of incarceration, sentencing guidelines, the prison industrial complex, racism and the financial inequities inherent in our judicial system are of paramount importance. Thank you Erica for gathering experts to explain the system and to speak out about the egregious backsliding that Jeff Sessions has ordered prosecutors to undertake.
The war on drugs is nearly 100 years old. For that entire time it has been treated as a law enforcement problem and that approach has resulted in total failure. It is a medical problem. I know several addicts and count some them as friends. The approach of Jeff Sessions will be a greater failure for everyone except those that run the ‘for profit’ prison systems. Of the addicts that I know the basic problem is poverty. Sessions approach will result in more people that are poor, untrained, and waiting for their next jail term. I can only hope that Vermont will take a more human, enlightened approach.
My father was in Lewisburg Federal Pen. before he married and had five children. In a very real sense a part of him never got out of jail. It was something he never talked about or even mentioned but it was there in his anger, his defiance against authority, seeing police men and the never ending lurking fear that he would be found out and put behind bars again. He was a good example of what happens with years of incarnation, where bits of your humanity are torn lose never to return. He did not know how to be a father, a good citizen or even how to forgive himself. Things like war and jail are experiences you never recover from and so later, when hospitalized for Alzheimer’s, he thought he was back in prison and quit eating. When I visited his legs kept moving as if he was trying to go somewhere and was very thin. He lasted only two weeks after that.
THANK YOU Erica for recording these thought-provoking and articulate interviews with Dan, Lisa and Mark – a serious slam dunk! I think you did a brilliant job of cutting to the core of this complex and devastating topic, whilst explaining how this latest blundering disaster of a memo from Jeff Sessions is a return to the Dark Ages of widespread warehousing of poor people. The idea that Lisa brings up, that for many poor folks in this country the best option for dental and health coverage is the prison system, is really saying something about where we are. Once again, I am deeply grateful to you for 1) getting it all on tape 2) asking all the right questions 3) from smart people who are in the trenches and really get it, and then 4) masterfully editing it to really pack a punch. Awesome work.