“It’s a crime problem,” AG Sessions talks criminal justice reform in Midwest City 

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at Rose State in Midwest City on Thursday.

Sessions was the keynote speaker at an Oklahoma Sheriff's Association meeting.

Several groups protesting a variety of Trump and Sessions' views gathered outside of the meeting, which was held in the student center.

Inside, local leaders took the stage addressing criminal justice reform before Sessions' arrival.

"I am gravely concerned that the promise that was made to voters with 781, that there was going to be this peace dividend from corrections," Mike Hunter, the Oklahoma Attorney General, said.

"For the legislators in this room, those legislators I implore you today, don't let this happen," John Whetsel, the former Oklahoma County Sheriff, said.

State Question 780 and 781 were a hot topic at the meeting. SQ 780 would reclassify certain criminal offenses, like some drug possession.

Voters approved, but some law makers want to revert some of the language.

When Sessions spoke, he touched on a similar topic.

"Crime is up. Sometimes it's prudent to review our sentences and I've supported reduction in sentences before. I worked with Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and we reduced the crack cocaine penalty," Sessions said.

He went on to say he felt that leveled the playing field, but he thinks there's a greater problem.

"The problem we face today is not a sentencing problem, it's a crime problem. If we want to bring down our prison population, we need to bring down crime," Sessions said.

He referenced a sentencing reform act passed in the 80's which instituted mandatory minimum sentences and ended federal parole.

"That lead to crime rates being cut in half," Sessions said.

Sessions said violent crime in the U.S. now is on the rise.

He said a better partnership between local, state, and federal leaders is key in solving the problem.

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