Does Attorney General Jeff Sessions have a conflict of interest?
As I researched drug trafficking for my first novel, Busted, my opinion about illegal drugs changed. Previously I’d supported the war on drugs; after all, drugs are bad. Over time, I came to the conclusion that prohibition doesn’t work, and in fact, creates a black market where illegal and illicit substances thrive without regulations. My new philosophy was reinforced by a 60 Minutes segment that reported the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, 25% of the world’s prisoners, and spends $80 billion per year on incarceration.
In 2013, in an attempt to change the rate of incarceration for low-level drug offenders, then Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. directed federal prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents, so as not to automatically prompt harsh penalties for low-level offenders. This change was described in a New York Times article.
On May 12, 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to redouble the war on drugs and sent a memo to federal prosecutors to pursue the highest charges possible for low-level offenders. So where’s the potential conflict? According to the Mr. Sessions’s personal disclosures, he owns shares in Vanguard funds that include holdings in two leading private prison companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group. The more people who are incarcerated, the more private prisons benefit. According to Snopes.com the fund is a diversified fund as opposed to being a sector fund. Because it is independently managed, it is not subject to the conflict of interest statue. Therefore, while Mr. Sessions has a vested interest in increasing the prison population, he does not have a conflict of interest.
At my book launching party, retired Superior Court James Gray said, “This Draconian approach has proven to be ineffective, and will only result in incarcerating more individuals.”
I rest my case. Do you agree? What are your thoughts?