U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has added more than 300 prosecutors to fight crimes including drug distribution and use related to the opioid crisis. Sessions announced a renewed commitment to fighting crime in a release on Monday.
“Under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis—and today we are sending in reinforcements,” Sessions said.
The Attorney General announced that he is appointing a total of 311 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys nationwide. Of those, 86 will be civil enforcement prosecutors, many with the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force. That new enforcement team is combatting the opioid crisis by targeting every level of the distribution system.
Another 190 of the new attorneys will prosecute violent crimes. The Department of Justice will use the remaining 35 appointees for the prosecution of immigration violations.
Sessions said that he has taken cost-saving measures and consequently enabled the DOJ to reallocate their limited resources. He also noted that his experience with the justice department has led him to be a demanding Attorney General.
“We have a saying in my office that a new federal prosecutor is the coin of the realm,” Sessions said. “When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is if we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed. I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission, and as a former federal prosecutor myself, my expectations could not be higher.”
Sessions also noted that the new appointees are the biggest addition of prosecutors to the Department of justice in years.
“These exceptional and talented prosecutors are key leaders in our crime-fighting partnership,” he said. “This addition of new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions represents the largest increase in decades.”
Will the Government Seek the Death Penalty for Drug Crimes?
In 2017 the Department of Health and Human Services declared that the opioid crisis had become a national health emergency. More than 42,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2016, according to HHS data.
Earlier this year, President Trump declared his administration would get tough on criminals involved in the scourge of opioid deaths. He also said that studying the problem wasn’t enough, and that capital punishment would be appropriate for some drug crimes.
“We can have all the blue-ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on drug dealers we’re wasting our time,” the president said. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
After that proclamation from the president, Sessions said that the justice department already had the authority to charge some drug crimes as capital offenses. And he even went so far as to urge the prosecuting attorneys under him to do so.
“Congress has passed several statutes that provide the department with the ability to seek capital punishment for certain drug-related crimes. I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation,” Sessions wrote.