Sally Yates Slams Jeff Sessions In Fiery Op-Ed On Drug Policy

By Keri Blakinger 06/26/17

Yates took Sessions to task for his push to reinstate harsher mandatory minimum sentences.

Sally Yates
Photo via YouTube

Last week, former acting attorney general Sally Yates emerged from her post-federal prosecutor life to slam Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ regressive take on drug enforcement. 

“Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences imposed at the height of the crack epidemic,” she wrote in a scathing Washington Post op-ed published Friday. The erstwhile top prosecutor accused Sessions of “stoking fear” with claims of a “rising epidemic of violent crime that can only be cured by putting more drug offenders in jail for more time.” 

Sessions, an outspoken drug warrior with a long history of controversial claims, penned his own op-ed one week earlier, touting his plans to peel back Obama-era policies and revert to seeking mandatory minimum sentences for even low-level drug offenders. The former Alabama senator blamed an uptick in violent crime on the 2013 shift to avoiding mandatory minimums—and Yates took him to task for it.

“That argument just isn’t supported by the facts,” she wrote. “Not only are violent crime rates still at historic lows—nearly half of what they were when I became a federal prosecutor in 1989—but there is also no evidence that the increase in violent crime some cities have experienced is the result of drug offenders not serving enough time in prison. 

“In fact, a recent study by the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission found that drug defendants with shorter sentences were actually slightly less likely to commit crimes when released than those sentenced under older, more severe penalties.”

After Yates’ fiery piece, titled “Making America scared again won’t make us safer,” posted online, the ex-prosecutor created a Twitter account to share her work with the world. 

“My first tweet as a private citizen,” she wrote. “Read my op-ed responding to AG Sessions on the need for criminal justice reform.” Two days after she created it, the new account gained 154,000 followers.

Among the thousands of responses was a congratulatory tweet from fellow former prosecutor Preet Bharara, another casualty of the Trump administration.

“I welcome my friend @SallyQYates to private life and the public arena,” he wrote. “Thank you for your service. Good to see you here.”

Yates’ 27-year tenure with the Justice Department ended earlier this year after she refused to defend the president’s travel ban. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.