Hillary Comes Out Against Crack-Powder Retroactivity

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton in Iowa yesterday said she has problems with making the reduction in crack-powder cocaine penalties, minimal as they are, retroactive.

“In principle I have problems with retroactivity," she said. "It’s something a lot of communities will be concerned about as well."

Five other Dems at the forum favor retroactivity:

Her five rivals present on stage — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich — all said they favor making the shorter sentences retroactive.

Hillary needs to rethink this. As Law Prof Doug Berman says at Sentencing Law and Policy, her position is a huge disappointment. But I'm not convinced Obama's position will result in any future change of the excessive mandatory minimum sentences (as opposed to the minimal guideline reduction) for crack offenses. [More...]

"Even if we fix this, if it was a 1-to-1 ratio, it's still a problem that folks are selling crack. It's still a problem that our young men are in a situation where they believe the only recourse for them is the drug trade. So there is a balancing act that has to be done in terms of, do we want to spend all our political capital on a very difficult issue that doesn't get at some of the underlying issues; whether we want to spend more of that political capital getting early childhood education in place, getting after-school programs in place, getting summer school programs in place."

As Boston Columnist Derrick Z. Jackson pointed out:

By asking an open question about spending "all our political capital" on eliminating the 100-to-1 ratio, that raises the possibility he will spend little or none on it. By talking about a "broader" prescription of early childhood school programs -- which means nothing to a 17-year-old in jail-- Obama risks flashing a losing card of being nonconfrontational.

Hillary at the same debate:

SEN. CLINTON: In order to tackle this problem, we have to do all of these things.

Number one, we do have to go after racial profiling. Iíve supported legislation to try to tackle that.

Number two, we have to go after mandatory minimums. You know, mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate, but it has been too widely used. And it is using now a discriminatory impact.

Three, we need diversion, like drug courts. Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system. (Applause.)

We need to make sure that we do deal with the distinction between crack and powder cocaine. And ultimately we need an attorney general and a system of justice that truly does treat people equally, and that has not happened under this administration. (Applause.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    I understand, however, I think (none / 0) (#1)
    by masslib on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 12:09:52 PM EST
    she is clear about eliminiating the discrepancy.  She doesn't want the retroactive immunity to become a political football and distract from the heart of the issue, eliminating the discrepancy.  Well, you won't like that, but it shows political seasoning, IMO.

    Another word for 'status quo'? (none / 0) (#4)
    by manys on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 03:20:10 PM EST
    She doesn't want the retroactive immunity to become a political football and distract from the heart of the issue, eliminating the discrepancy.  Well, you won't like that, but it shows political seasoning, IMO.

    Extremely naive and cynical. There is no way it's not going to be a political football, so her rationale is to push it off into the future when some confluence of "everything" comes together and we pass some nice laws that take care of this unpleasantness. Please. These are discrete things, that while may be delicately interconnected, must be tackled individually. If this is "political seasoning," I'll take a fresh face any day.


    Noncommittal (none / 0) (#2)
    by ProDemocrat on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 01:09:50 PM EST
    Once again Hillary refuses to take a stand on anything!  It certainly is not a surprise Obama is pulling farther and farther ahead.

    Does anyone really know what HRC stands for if anything?..

    No-one here gets out alive. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 01:11:09 PM EST
    Too bad she can't copy Bill's playbook and schedule an execution for the eve of the New Hampshire Primary.

    Retroactivity = Problems? (none / 0) (#5)
    by BDB on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 03:46:06 PM EST
    I'm all for getting rid of the disparity between crack and powder cocaine, it should've been done years ago.  But retroactivity is not an easy issue in any context, whether it's Telecom immunity or drug sentencing.  The problem with retroactively applying the change to all sentences is that just because the disparity between crack and powder is unfair, doesn't mean every sentence in particular cases involving crack is unfair.  There will inevitably be folks who are serving the man. min. for crack who were looking at even longer sentences for the totality of their crimes (e.g. armed career criminals, carrying firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, etc.), but pled guilty to the crack crime to avoid the longer sentences of other statutes.

    Now, maybe it is worth it to let the more serious offenders out earlier to avoid the unjust sentences handed down because of the crack man min.  Or maybe not.  

    I do think retroactivity is bad politics.  Because you can bet the Republicans will find the most heinous guy imaginable who will get out early and use him to beat up on the Democratic candidate.  Which, if done right, could not only damage the candidate, but also the cause of getting rid of crack/powder disparity.  

    Hillary Comes Out Against Crack-Powder Retroactivi (none / 0) (#6)
    by twobadd4us on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 03:57:35 PM EST
     I think it's kinda odd that instead of politicians doing the right things , they prove that they have no common since about fair play !
     Anyone with half a mind would probably just raise the sentences for powder cocaine the same as crack ! and not to mention Cristal meth as well because no matter which one you or they would use , they can all be classified as devastating if smoked and deadly .
     If there is a question of discrimination ? It's because of the activist that put it there !
     Sure if they didn't include powder or meth , it's gets fishy ? why do they constantly do things that feed the perception that discrimination is present ? because they are stupid and have no common since !