Crack Cocaine Sentencing Overhaul

Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:11 am (PST)

Crack Cocaine Sentencing Overhaul – Relief From the War on Citizens _http://lonestartime

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(http://lonestartime s.com/2007/ 11/13/crack- cocaine-sentenci ng-overhaul- relief-from- the-war-on- citizens/)

The failed war on drugs has taken a huge toll on our society, both monetarily and psychologically. The sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine have been revised and now _the task is to look at those imprisoned_ (http://www.msnbc. msn.com/id/ 21763002/) under the older, harsher guidelines. Should the panel adopt the new policy, the sentences of 19,500 inmates would be reduced by an average of 27 months. About 3,800 inmates now imprisoned for possession and distribution of crack cocaine could be freed within the next year, according to the commission’s analysis. The proposal would cover only inmates in federal prisons and not those in state correctional facilities, where the vast majority of people convicted of drug offenses are held. As I have learned the hard way on Lone Star Times, it is virtually impossible for a conservative to point out racial disparities in any segment of society without being roundly booed and run off the stage. But even the most ardent defender of the status quo will have a hard time disputing the impact that the war on drugs, specifically the harsher sentences for crack cocaine, has had on the black community.

The commission is taking up one of the most racially sensitive issues of the two-decades- The commission is taking up one of the most racially sensitive issues of the two-decades- old war on drugs. Jurists and civil rights organizations have long complained that the commission’s guidelines mandate more stringent federal penalties for crack cocaine offenses, which usually involve African Americans, than for crimes involving powder cocaine, which generally involve white people. Nearly 86 percent of inmates who would be affected by the change are black; slightly fewer than 6 percent are white. Ninety-four percent are men.

In part, because of crack’s relatively cheap price, most offenders are poor black people. As a result, some civil libertarians cite sentencing discrepancies as one reason for the explosion in the number of African Americans – especially men – behind bars.

Make no mistake, drugs are a scourge upon our society as a whole. Illicit drug use is bad for all citizens, black, white, brown or purple. But we, as a people, exacerbate the problem when allow our policies to become so one-sided that they affect a sub-set of our population so overwhelmingly. Texas criminal justice blogger _Scott Henson_ (http://gritsforbrea kfast.blogspot. com/) has _written extensively on the problem_ (http://www.google. com/custom? hl=en&safe= off&client= pub-009872347498 0566&channel= 8865825652& cof=FORID: 1;GL:1;S: http:// www.gritsforbreakfa st.org;L:http://home. austin.rr. com/apdhallofsha me/grits. jpg ;LH:50;LW:59; LBGC:FF9900; LC:#0066cc; VLC:#336633; GALT:#0066CC; GFNT:#666666; GIMP :#666666;DIV: #999999;& domains=gritsfor breakfast. blogspot. com&ie=ISO- 8859-1&oe= ISO-8859-1&q= crack+cocaine+ sentencing+ guidelines& btnG=Search& sitesearch= gritsf orbreakfast. blogspot. com) .

Should those in prison under the old guidelines automatically be released? No. They will have to petition the courts for a review to determine their eligibility. As it should be. Some are arguing that this petition process will clog the courts and create chaos. So what? Right is right. Richard L. Delonis, national president of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, warned that retroaction would burden prosecutors and overwhelm U.S. marshals, who would have to resettle prisoners into halfway houses.

Among those challenging that argument are the committee on criminal law for the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Robert W. Pratt, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, said assertions that retroaction will result in “an avalanche of motions . . . are exaggerated. Robert W. Pr”The courts’ workloads should not stand in the way of achieving sentences in `crack’ cocaine cases that are proportionate, fair and serve the interests of justice.” The war on drugs is a complete failure and it’s time we acknowledged that. This is just a small step in that direction. Releasing these prisoners, after review, will save money and will offer them the opportunity to contribute to society.