Will the Trump Administration Jail More Drug Felons?


John Pfaff was quoted in Newsweek regarding how Trump administration policies might affect incarceration rates.

President Donald Trump has struck a different note, pledging during his campaign that he would be “tough on crime,” dubbing himself the “law and order” candidate.


For John Pfaff, author of Locked In and professor of law at New York’s Fordham University, Sessions’ plans to re-introduce tougher drugs sentencing may not automatically translate into higher incarceration rates though.


“This will only be affecting the federal system and the federal system is only about 12 percent of the prison population, so the overall impact will not be that great – if every federal prisoner in the country was freed, the U.S. would still have the world’s highest incarceration rate.”


He said the move’s strongest impact could be on public faith in U.S. law enforcement, which has wavered after a series of high-profile shootings of civilians by police officers.


“I don’t think there will be that many additional low-level offenders given really long sentences but any one of those can become a media story, and can affect people’s views on the general legitimacy of law enforcement,” he told Newsweek.

A key element is how Trump administration policy will play out at a state and county level, where federal government has less authority and which drives incarceration rates.


Pfaff said he believed that under the Trump administration, federal incarceration rates would increase, but that in states and counties policy would reflect local concerns.


“I think they [the Trump administration]will try to use their rhetoric to encourage states to be more aggressive and encourage prosecutors to be more aggressive, but my general sense is that that kind of rhetoric does not matter nearly so much at the local level as something that drives prisoner growth in the states,” he said.


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