TO HEAR Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump tell it, American cities are becoming “war zones”; and Memphis, Tennessee is one of them. Visiting last month, Mr Sessions lamented a 43% rise in murders in 2016, to a record annual total. Heroin-related deaths were soaring too, he noted. The attorney-general omitted the fall in property crime, and the nationwide decline in violence that preceded the recent spike. Still, he had a point: news in Memphis is a grisly drumbeat of shootings, including, this week, that of a two-year-old girl. He spoke longingly of communities in which “law-abiding citizens can live without fear.”

In some American cities, the fear he described is real. But in Memphis as elsewhere, another kind is abroad, too: fear of Mr Sessions’s unforgiving views on crime and immigration. Advocates of criminal-justice reform worry that he will fill up prisons and build new ones, justifying draconian punishments with massaged statistics and fallacious reasoning. Activists worry…Continue reading

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