Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared in remarks delivered in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 25 that he plans to take a tough approach to drug offenses and crime.
Sessions was addressing state prosecutors and law enforcement officials, Vice News reports.
He pointed to the problem of gun violence by mentioning a viral video in which a 6-year-old boy appeals for a solution.
"This is happening in the United States of America -- and we will not stand for it," Sessions said, according to Vice.
He also laid out the Trump administration's view on drugs and took a swipe at his predecessors.
"Drugs and crime go together," he added. "If they don't fear you, they don't pay you."
"Violent crime surged, federal drug prosecutions fell. We're going to reverse that trend," said Sessions. "There's been too much legalization talk and not enough prevention talk."
The attorney general promised to take steps to strengthen law enforcement. On May 12, he presented an order urging prosecutors to seek the harshest sentences for drug crimes, including the enforcement of minimum sentences for some crimes, Rolling Stone reports.
"The more murderers in jail, the fewer people are going to be murdered in this country," he told his Memphis audience, Vice reports. "I don't think the increase is a blip. Yes, we did have 30 years of a decline in crime, which we did with tough sentencing, and tough prosecution."
Sessions' appeal for tough sentencing has not been universally welcomed.
"Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long," Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said in response to Sessions' sentencing directive, according to Rolling Stone. "Attorney General Sessions' new policy will accentuate that injustice. Instead, 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."
Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia is pushing a bill in the House that would focus on probation rather than sending convicted criminals to prison. He is arguing in favor of concentrating on early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation.
But Scott stated this would be no easy task.
"I haven't seen anybody -- and this is one of the problems with crime policy -- I haven't seen anybody supporting mandatory minimums who had to justify their position," Scott said. "So a vote in favor of mandatory minimums becomes a safe vote, because you never hear about it again. Nobody gets ambushed voting stupid on crime. You get ambushed voting smart on crime."
Sources: Vice News, Rolling Stone / Photo credit: Barry Bahler/U.S. Department of Homeland Security via Flickr