Such prescription opioids are behind the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history. More than 52,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2015 — a record — and experts believe the numbers have continued to rise. Sessions has made aggressive prosecutions of drug crime a top priority, saying the deadly overdoses necessitate a return to tougher tactics.
The Health Department says opioid-related overdoses killed 3,050 Ohioans in 2015, with that number expected to jump sharply for 2016.
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In June, the coroner serving the greater Columbus area said overdose deaths through April of this year rose to 173, a 66 percent jump from the same period a year ago.
The prosecutors will be based in U.S. attorney’s offices in the Middle District of Florida; the Eastern District of Michigan; the Northern District of Alabama; the Eastern District of Tennessee; Nevada; the Eastern District of Kentucky; Maryland; the Western District of Pennsylvania; the Southern District of Ohio; the Eastern District of California; the Middle District of North Carolina; and the Southern District of West Virginia.
In May, Sessions instructed the nation’s federal prosecutors to bring the toughest charges possible against most crime suspects. Critics assailed the move as a return to failed drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities and filled prisons with nonviolent offenders.
The announcement was a reversal of Obama-era policies that is sure to send more people to prison and for much longer terms.
Advocates warned the shift would crowd federal prisons and strain Justice Department resources. Some involved in criminal justice during the drug war feared the human impact would look similar.
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