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Sessions tries to derail drug sentence reform

It's an issue many people may not be paying attention to, but a piece of legislation that would bring reform to drug sentencing guidelines has been making its way through Congress.

And amazingly, it has received bipartisan support at a time when Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on anything.

But the needed legislation is getting gummed up by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is publicly opposing it, calling the bill a "grave error" that he said would prevent the courts from being able to hand out severe enough punishment to enough people.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would reduce some of the "mandatory minimum" sentences for drug crimes. It's long overdue. The mandatory minimum sentences were often set unreasonably high by members of Congress who wanted to be viewed as tough on crime.

But enough members in both parties realize the long sentences, particularly for people whose only crime was using drugs, are not only too harsh but extremely costly to taxpayers and society as prisons and jails are filled with drug addicts.

Sessions, whose job it is to enforce laws, not write them, nonetheless has inserted himself into the debate. His attacks could influence President Trump and some Republicans who have been in support of the measure.

Fortunately, some powerful Republicans are pushing back against Sessions. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has fumed over Sessions' involvement and recently said he may join Democrats in opposing a separate prison reform bill pushed by the Trump administration unless sentencing reform is also approved.

Yes, people expect serious punishment for big-time drug peddlers and career criminals. But people also know that sending drug users and low-level drug criminals to prison for long periods of time is unjust and costly. It also has no effect in reducing problems such as the current opioid crisis.

For drug users, a more effective approach is treatment with the threat of longer punishment hanging over them for motivation.

Congress shouldn't buckle under to Sessions' tough on crime blather.

The mandatory minimum drug sentences, which have filled prisons with drug users and low-level criminals, need to be scaled back.

-- Mankato Free Press