Gives mom convicted of drug smuggling time to arrange child care ahead
of mandatory prison term
In a case that has raised questions about the effect of mandatory
minimum sentences, a Manitoba judge has taken pity on a woman he
convicted by agreeing to give her more freedom before he sends her to
In a likely unprecedented move, Justice Sheldon Lanchbery reserved his
decision and delayed the sentencing of 37-year-old Sandra Dignard by
about two months. That will allow the mother of four time to make
child-care arrangements before she is placed in custody. The judge
said he has no choice but to sentence Dignard to two years in prison
for drug trafficking, despite his belief she should not be locked up.
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WASHINGTON - As a senator, Jeff Sessions was such a conservative
outlier on criminal justice issues that he pushed other Republicans to
the forefront of his campaign to block a sentencing overhaul, figuring
they would be taken more seriously.
Now Mr. Sessions is attorney general and need not take a back seat to
anyone when it comes to imposing his ultratough-on-crime views. The
effect of his transition from being just one of 535 in Congress to
being top dog at the Justice Department was underscored on Friday when
he ordered federal prosecutors to make sure they threw the book at
criminal defendants and pursued the toughest penalties possible.
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When Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week jettisoned an Obama
administration policy that had been aimed at sparing less-serious drug
offenders from harsh sentences, he called his new, more aggressive
approach "moral and just."
But the verdict among law-enforcement and legal professionals is more
mixed. Government data, along with interviews with former U.S.
attorneys who advised the Justice Department under President Barack
Obama, suggest the previous policy achieved several, though not all,
of its goals.
Then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced the policy that was to be
embodied in what became known as the "Holder memo" in a 2013 speech to
the American Bar Association. Mr. Holder pledged that federal
prosecutors would focus on more dangerous drug traffickers and avoid
charging less-serious offenders with crimes that required long,
mandatory-minimum sentences. Mandatory-minimum sentences, he said, had
led to bloated, costly prisons and disproportionately ravaged minority
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WASHINGTON - Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to soon
toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes, according to people familiar
with internal deliberations, in what would be a major rollback of
Obama-era policies that would put his first big stamp on a Justice
Department he has criticized as soft on crime.
Mr. Sessions has been reviewing a pair of memos issued by his
predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., who encouraged federal prosecutors to
use their discretion in what criminal charges they filed, particularly
when those charges carried mandatory minimum penalties.
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Even as Gov. Nathan Deal was signing the latest batch of state laws
designed to keep lower-level offenders out of prison, the Trump
administration was preparing a crackdown seeking the toughest possible
charges against offenders convicted of nonviolent drug violations.
The U.S. Justice Department released directives Friday that call for
more mandatory minimum sentences and direct prosecutors to pursue the
strictest punishments available. It was a sweeping shift in criminal
justice policy, reversing Obama-era policies to reduce penalties for
some nonviolent offenses.
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WASHINGTON - Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal
prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences
against crime suspects, he announced Friday, reversing Obama
administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug
The drastic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during
recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions's first major stamp on the Justice
Department, and it highlights several of his top targets: drug
dealing, gun crime and gang violence.
In an eight-paragraph memo, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of
President George W. Bush's administration by calling for more uniform
punishments - including mandatory minimum sentences - and instructing
prosecutors to pursue the harshest possible charges. Mr. Sessions's
policy is broader than that of the Bush administration, however, and
how it is carried out will depend more heavily on the judgments of
United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general as they bring
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In a move expected to swell federal prisons, Attorney General Jeff
Sessions is scuttling an Obama administration policy to avoid charging
nonviolent, less-serious drug offenders with long, mandatory-minimum
Mr. Sessions's new guidelines revive a policy created under President
George W. Bush that tasked federal prosecutors with charging "the most
serious readily provable offense."
It is the latest and most significant step by the new administration
toward dismantling President Barack Obama's criminal justice legacy.
And it defies a trend in state capitals-including several led by
conservative Republicans-toward recalibrating or abandoning the
mandatory-minimum sentences popularized during the "war on drugs" of
the 1980s and 1990s.
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A prison sentence of up to 14 years for providing cannabis to youth is
shaping up as one of the early points of contention as the Liberal
government prepares to defend its landmark legislation to legalize
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, makes clear in its opening passages that
the main purpose of the legislation is to prevent young people from
Those opening statements are backed up with stiff penalties, including
imprisonment for up to 14 years for providing marijuana to someone 17
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The true test of Justin Trudeau's commitment to his sound pot policy
will be how his government handles the hurdles to come
By tabling legislation to overturn Canada's 94-year-old prohibition on
pot, the Trudeau government has put forward its first truly bold bit
of public policy. And it's a good one. The ban on marijuana has
brought a great deal of misery, while delivering few benefits. Yet
legalization is far from a fait accompli. The true test of Justin
Trudeau's commitment to this policy will be how his government handles
the hurdles to come.
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[photo] A cell at El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma.
President Obama toured the prison last week. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty
A bipartisan push to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in
prison is gaining momentum in Congress, but proposals may disappoint
advocates hoping to slash the mandatory minimum sentences that are seen as
chiefly responsible for overcrowding in the nation's detention facilities.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) surprised advocates Thursday by
saying he strongly supported holding a vote on a prison reform bill
similar to one sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a moderate Republican
from Wisconsin. The measure has been languishing in the House Judiciary
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Joseph Tigano III is spending 20 years in prison for growing marijuana.
He grew a lot of it. No one disputes that. And this was his second felony
conviction. So no one, not even Tigano's lawyers, suggests the Cattaraugus
County man should go unpunished.
But 20 years?
Even the federal judge who sentenced Tigano in 2015 thought it was too
heavy a price to pay.
"It is much greater than necessary," U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A.
Wolford said at the time, "but I do not have a choice."
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In November 2012, people in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize
marijuana for recreational use in their states. Nine months later, as
the states worked out their local legal regimes, then-Attorney General
Eric H. Holder Jr. issued a directive to law enforcement, urging them
to let the states' experiments proceed. By the end of 2016, a batch of
new states had legalized marijuana, and Holder himself was advocating
for marijuana to be "rescheduled" -- meaning that penalties should be
lowered for sale and possession across the country.
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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making another pitch for the state to
decriminalize possession of some marijuana.
Cuomo quietly included the proposal in a 380-page State of the State
message that he provided late Wednesday to the state Legislature.
"The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New
York state, but data consistently show that recreational users of
marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety," is on Page 191 of
The idea will again stoke a debate in Albany after the issue gained
prominence in 2012 -- when the Democratic governor first made the push to
decriminalize possession of marijuana.
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Heavy with needle users, London could move a step closer in February to a
supervised injection site for drug-addicted residents amid renewed debate
about the idea.
The results of a feasibility study that surveyed 200 current and former
needle users, as well as police, politicians, and social service and
health agency representatives, is to be released in early February,
Christopher Mackie, the Middlesex-London medical officer of health, said
That study won't suggest a location or timeline to establish a site, but
one area Conservative MP already is raising the alarm about the
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Officials, former inmate contrast the emphasis on treatment vs.
When Leola Bivins was first sent away for dealing drugs, she was a
22-year-old high school dropout with a 2-year-old daughter at home.
Addiction was the center of the life she knew in East Stroudsburg,
where she was born and raised, she recalled recently. Bivins' mother
was a heroin addict - she eventually died of an overdose - and
seemingly everyone around her was either selling drugs or abusing
them, Bivins said.
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Imagine this: Upon taking his oath of office, President Donald Trump
instructs his new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to ignore civil
rights laws. How would that go over? Before you yell, "But we are a
nation of laws!" you can thank President Barack Obama and his prior
Attorney General Eric Holder for magnifying this issue.
Basically, the Obama administration made it standard operating
procedure to ignore laws they thought unfashionable or unworthy.
The best example of this is marijuana.
To be clear at the outset, I am neither pro-pot nor anti-pot. And, in
fact, marijuana is not even the issue - rather, the Constitution is.
Marijuana is just the symptom that exposes the problem.
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Ottawa achieved a dubious distinction over the weekend when the
capital saw its 50th shooting of 2016. With a quarter of the year left
to go, that beats the previous record of 49 set in 2014.
Now, I am not prepared to invite outrage and opprobrium from the left
by suggesting that we might encapsulate the increased violence with
the sobriquet of "welcome to Justin Trudeau's Canada." But it does
suggest that while Canada enforces some of the toughest gun control
legislation in the world, the criminals never have any difficulty in
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There goes another Harper tough-on-crime law out the judicial window.
Because, of course, we wouldn't want to be too hard on a woman farming
1,100 pot plants in the middle of a Jane St. highrise apartment building.
In a landmark ruling, an Ontario judge has struck down yet another of
the former Conservative government's mandatory minimum sentences as
unconstitutional, this time the two-year minimum jail term - with an
extra year for endangering public safety - for growing more than 500
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On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 111 federal
In his first term, Obama endured the sting of critics like me who
called him one of the stingiest modern presidents when it comes to
the presidential pardon power.
In his second term, Obama is making up for lost time. With 673
commutations , the Washington Post reports , Obama has approached
690, the number of commutations issued by the previous 11 presidents.
Obama deserves credit for doing the right thing.
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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama cut short on Tuesday the
sentences of 111 federal inmates in another round of commutations for
those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.
Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug
convictions, arguing they lead to excessive punishment and
incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries.
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said the commutations underscored
the president's commitment to using his clemency authority to give
deserving individuals a second chance. He said that Obama has granted
a total of 673 commutations, more than the previous 10 presidents
combined. More than a third of the recipients were serving life sentences.
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