As the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominee Todd Jones as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives yesterday, one controversial ATF practice was not raised during the hearings.
Jones, who has been working as interim ATF head, was not questioned about a program investigated in a special report by USA Today, that found the government agency had poured significant resources into luring former criminals and low-level drug dealers into large-scale crimes in order to convict them with long prison sentences.
Basically, agents identify people they think would have a propensity to carry out armed drug robberies, offer them an opportunity to rob a fictional drug house with thousands, sometimes millions of dollars worth of drugs, and then arrest them as they are about to carry out the heist.
On occasion suspects are killed in ensuing shootouts with federal agents. USA Today found that ATF has managed to send more than a thousand people to prison via this program. Because of mandatory drug sentencing laws, the greater the value of the fictional drugs the suspects were hoping to steal, the longer their sentences.
Many who have been arrested in this manner end up serving decades in prison, and a handful are in for life.
GUEST: Lynne Lyman, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance
Visit www.drugpolicy.org for more information.