NAACP LDF president: Sessions’ drug war plans won’t solve drug problems

Emily Gray Brosious

April 11, 2017: 12:57 PM CT

Legal Defense Fund Annual Gala To Commemorate The 60th Anniversary Of Brown V. Board Of EducationSherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, speaks onstage during the Legal Defense Fund Annual Gala to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education at the New York Hilton Midtown on Nov. 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for NAACP Legal Defense Fund)


Speaking Tuesday, Apr. 11, on “Democracy Now!,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, broke down some key problems she sees with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent statements on U.S. drug policy.

Host Juan Gonzalez asked Ifill to weigh in on Sessions’ recent statements in which he praised drug war policies of the ‘80s and ‘90s and doubled down on his desire to stomp out all federally illegal drug use.

Gonzalez noted that Sessions’ statements appear to harken back to the drug problems of a bygone era, ignoring the reality of what America’s drug epidemic looks like today.

“The drug problem in America today is in rural areas. It’s opioids and it’s heroin, it’s not as much in the inner city as it used to be. Is he [Sessions] going to now oversee the breaking down of doors and a huge increase of law enforcement activities in rural America, against white people who are now on drugs?” Gonzalez asked Ifill.

“I’m going to say no,” Ifill replied. She goes on to explain why she suspects Sessions’ statements aren’t really aimed at solving the opioid epidemic.

“The policy that Jeff Sessions is advancing, actually – as you say – has nothing to do with the way in which the drug problem manifests itself in this country today. And what he’s suggesting as a solution will not meet the problem. … The policy that Jeff Sessions is suggesting actually won’t reach the opioid epidemic.”

She says Sessions’ plan, which focuses heavily on law enforcement efforts, won’t do anything to substantially counter the opioid epidemic because it doesn’t focus on drug treatment or education, and it does nothing to address the underlying issues that “make people vulnerable to the drug problem.”

Ifill also notes that Sessions’ praise of Reagan-era “Just Say No” drug policies is a “simplistic” way to view to drug problem in America.

“Everyone now knows that the way in which we dealt with the drug problem in the ‘80s and ‘90s was very much racially biased, very much did not meet the problem. … And so what Jeff Sessions is suggesting is something that just simply won’t meet the problem,” she said.

Ifill suggested that Sessions likely has no intentions of doubling down on drug enforcement in white, rural America. His real goal, she suspects, is to change the current narrative surrounding policing in America, in an attempt to reinforce the idea that Americans need to empower police to protect them against the dangers of illegal drug use.

“What he’s trying to do is shift and turn the narrative back, and that’s why we’ve got to resist this. I think most people in the country actually recognize that we can’t go backwards in policing, and we can’t go backwards in those kinds of drug policies,” she said. “The question is, will we allow Jeff Sessions, particularly, will police departments – if he offers them funds and money and resources – allow themselves to be sucked back into something that they know does not work?”

Watch Tuesday’s entire “Democracy Now!” newscast here.


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