Attorney Generals Address Opioid Epidemic - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Attorney Generals Address Opioid Epidemic

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As many in our region battle issues with drug addiction, a change in Washington means crime and punishment receives a different look.  

Former U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld explains previous policy.

"They had a policy that was known as 'Smart on Crime.'  And it was something that discouraged pursuing significant sentences against people who were considered to be 'mid-to-low level offenders," said Ihlenfeld.

He asserts law enforcement realized drug addiction had to some extent turned into a public health problem, but worries about the future.

"We were starting to shift people who were in the criminal justice system, over into treatment. Whether those were drug courts or other alternatives to incarceration. And it appears as if this initial memo from the Attorney General is shifting back to the way things were done in the '80s, and in the '90s," Ihlenfeld said.

"Nancy Reagan said we were going to have a 'Just Say No' program.  People mocked that," stated U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

While AG Sessions does sound like he might have in the 1980s, Ohio's top cop views the issue pragmatically.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, "Law enforcement has to do what it does.  We have to go after the pushers.  We have to go after the drug dealers, and lock them up.  But we're not going to, frankly, arrest our way totally out of this problem.  I think we have to really emphasize, education and prevention."

Which Attorney General Sessions said to a recent audience in Charleston.

"Over time, we developed more and more sophisticated prevention programs.  Age-appropriate programs.  Messaging programs that we know have proven scientifically to work.  That research and data is out there," stated AG Sessions.

He has given U.S. Attorneys much discretion to prosecute, but more telling actions will come with passage of federal budgets.

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