Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy

Posted: Updated:

By DYLAN LOVAN
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul strongly opposed the Department of Justice directive, which reverses an Obama-era policy that prescribed leniency for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders.

"We should treat our nation's drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' problem," Paul said in a statement released shortly after Session's announcement.

Sessions argued that a spike in violence in some big cities and the nation's opioid epidemic call for a return to harsher prison sentences. The memo announced Friday would urge U.S. attorneys to charge steeper crimes that would trigger long mandatory prison sentences, including for drug offenders.

Kentucky and West Virginia have some of the highest rates of drug abuse overdose deaths in the country. Last year, 864 people died of overdose deaths in West Virginia. Both states saw a double digit percentage increase in the overdose death rate between 2014 and 2015.

Former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, who was the top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Kentucky, said he was concerned that a multifaceted approach emphasizing prevention and treatment was being abandoned by the Trump administration.

"There was a real momentum for a time, and I think it's safe to say it's dead now, toward a broader criminal justice reform effort, and that was a bipartisan effort," Harvey said. He said the Obama administration embraced that philosophy and many conservative lawmakers, such as Sen. Paul, were also on board.

"In terms of the drug problem, my philosophy was pretty simple: For people who were addicts, that's an illness, and addicts needed treatment beds, and professional drug dealers needed prison beds," Harvey said.

However, Harvey said he doesn't think the move will create a "sea change" in how federal drug cases are handled in Kentucky because most low-level offenders are handled by state prosecutors rather than in federal court.

Kentucky in recent years has enacted laws that increased prison substance abuse treatment and modified sentences for certain drug offenses.

Longtime eastern Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, a Republican, said in a statement Friday that he "strongly supports the use of drug courts and other evidence-based alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders."

West Virginia has also seen the value in a broader approach to drug abuse, said Jim Johnson, the drug control policy director for the city of Huntington. Johnson, a former police chief, said the opioid scourge has introduced a new kind of addict: those who became hooked after receiving a prescription for pain.

"Now we're dealing with the 28-year-old mother who used to jog 5 miles a morning who sprained her knee, or the coal miner in Appalachia who hurt his back," Johnson said.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder in a 2013 memo sought less harsh sentences for low-level offenders who didn't belong to a trafficking organization or gang. Harvey said the intent was to give federal judges more flexibility in sentencing and reduce prison overcrowding. Sessions' move Friday nullified that memo.

Johnson and Harvey said federal prosecutors should be focused on large-scale drug trafficking organizations and cartels, and they said they see signs that the Justice Department under Sessions would aggressively pursue those cases.

But Johnson said addiction must also be addressed, and reduced, through treatment and rehabilitation.

"I understand what they're saying, and everybody wants the cartels broken up in Mexico," he said. "But if we don't lower the demand, there's always going to be a supply, because of the amount of money, we're talking billions and billions of dollars."

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More NewsMore>>

  • Official: Largest jackpot won by single ticket

    Official: Largest jackpot won by single ticket

    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:44 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:44:03 GMT

    Powerball Product Group Chair Charlie McIntyre says the $758.7 million jackpot claimed by a ticket sold in Massachusetts is the largest grand prize won by a single lottery ticket in U.S. history. In a statement early Thursday, McIntyre also says six other tickets won $2 million apiece, and 34 more are worth $1 million. The lucky numbers for the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history were 6, 7, 16, 23 and 26, and the Powerball number was 4.

    More >>

    Powerball Product Group Chair Charlie McIntyre says the $758.7 million jackpot claimed by a ticket sold in Massachusetts is the largest grand prize won by a single lottery ticket in U.S. history. In a statement early Thursday, McIntyre also says six other tickets won $2 million apiece, and 34 more are worth $1 million. The lucky numbers for the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history were 6, 7, 16, 23 and 26, and the Powerball number was 4.

    More >>
  • Ted Nugent meets with elected officials in Warren

    Ted Nugent meets with elected officials in Warren

    Thursday, August 24 2017 1:06 AM EDT2017-08-24 05:06:02 GMT

    A group of elected officials put party politics aside Wednesday to come together on an issue that they agree on -- the right to bear arms. The speaker was Ted Nugent, a board member for the NRA, rock musician and political activist. 

    More >>

    A group of elected officials put party politics aside Wednesday to come together on an issue that they agree on -- the right to bear arms. The speaker was Ted Nugent, a board member for the NRA, rock musician and political activist. 

    More >>
  • Caregiver with local contractor accused of beating mentally disabled man

    Caregiver with local contractor accused of beating mentally disabled man

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 11:43 PM EDT2017-08-24 03:43:07 GMT

    A man hired to care for people, including in some cases those who suffer from mental illnesses, is now facing criminal charges for doing the unthinkable. Allegedly beating one man, and then threatening to kill him. Davanzo Tate, Senior's alleged crime in one case happened back in April but wasn't reported to Youngstown Police Detectives until late July when a videotape of the suspected crime was sent to the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. On the short vi...

    More >>

    A man hired to care for people, including in some cases those who suffer from mental illnesses, is now facing criminal charges for doing the unthinkable. Allegedly beating one man, and then threatening to kill him. Davanzo Tate, Senior's alleged crime in one case happened back in April but wasn't reported to Youngstown Police Detectives until late July when a videotape of the suspected crime was sent to the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. On the short vi...

    More >>
  • SpotlightSpotlightMore>>

  • Stuff the Bus!

    Stuff the Bus!

    Sunday, August 13 2017 7:52 PM EDT2017-08-13 23:52:49 GMT

    21 WFMJ, Great Clips, Cocca’s Pizza and Huntington Bank have teamed up with the United Way to “Stuff the Bus,” now through September 3rd.   

    More >>

    21 WFMJ, Great Clips, Cocca’s Pizza and Huntington Bank have teamed up with the United Way to “Stuff the Bus,” now through September 3rd.   

    More >>
  • Weather Pics

    Weather Pics

    Check out weather related pics from our viewers!  Please send your pics to weatherpics@wfmj.com.

    More >>

    Check out weather related pics from our viewers!  Please send your pics to weatherpics@wfmj.com.

    More >>
  • Watch Movie Trailers

    Watch Movie Trailers

    Movie ticketMovie ticket

    Looking to go to a movie?  Check out the latest movie trailers!

    More >>

    Looking to go to a movie?  Check out the latest movie trailers!

    More >>
  • Ohio/Pennsylvania NewsMore>>

  • Caregiver with local contractor accused of beating mentally disabled man

    Caregiver with local contractor accused of beating mentally disabled man

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 11:43 PM EDT2017-08-24 03:43:07 GMT

    A man hired to care for people, including in some cases those who suffer from mental illnesses, is now facing criminal charges for doing the unthinkable. Allegedly beating one man, and then threatening to kill him. Davanzo Tate, Senior's alleged crime in one case happened back in April but wasn't reported to Youngstown Police Detectives until late July when a videotape of the suspected crime was sent to the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. On the short vi...

    More >>

    A man hired to care for people, including in some cases those who suffer from mental illnesses, is now facing criminal charges for doing the unthinkable. Allegedly beating one man, and then threatening to kill him. Davanzo Tate, Senior's alleged crime in one case happened back in April but wasn't reported to Youngstown Police Detectives until late July when a videotape of the suspected crime was sent to the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities. On the short vi...

    More >>
  • Man tossed from wagon, trampled by horse at Crawford County fair dies

    Man tossed from wagon, trampled by horse at Crawford County fair dies

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 10:12 PM EDT2017-08-24 02:12:52 GMT

    A man has been thrown from a wagon and trampled by a horse at a Pennsylvania county fair and has died. The Crawford County coroner's office says 64-year-old Saegertown resident Charles Burns was injured in the accident Wednesday at the Crawford County Fairgrounds and was pronounced dead 15 minutes later at a hospital. Coroner Scott Schell says Burns was in a wagon that was making a turn when he was ejected and landed underneath the horse. Schell says Burns died of blunt-force trauma

    More >>

    A man has been thrown from a wagon and trampled by a horse at a Pennsylvania county fair and has died. The Crawford County coroner's office says 64-year-old Saegertown resident Charles Burns was injured in the accident Wednesday at the Crawford County Fairgrounds and was pronounced dead 15 minutes later at a hospital. Coroner Scott Schell says Burns was in a wagon that was making a turn when he was ejected and landed underneath the horse. Schell says Burns died of blunt-force trauma

    More >>
  • Father charged in son's fatal overdose pleads not guilty

    Father charged in son's fatal overdose pleads not guilty

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 3:47 PM EDT2017-08-23 19:47:01 GMT
    Dorrico BrownDorrico Brown

    An Ohio man charged in the fatal drug overdose of his 1-year-old son has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangering charges. The not-guilty pleas for Dorrico Brown, of Trenton, were entered Wednesday in a Butler County court. He was arrested this month in the death of Dorrico Brown Jr. Authorities say Brown called 911 on May 17 after finding his son on a bed not breathing. The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. 

    More >>

    An Ohio man charged in the fatal drug overdose of his 1-year-old son has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangering charges. The not-guilty pleas for Dorrico Brown, of Trenton, were entered Wednesday in a Butler County court. He was arrested this month in the death of Dorrico Brown Jr. Authorities say Brown called 911 on May 17 after finding his son on a bed not breathing. The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms