Mandatory Minimum Rally In Advance of Hearing Tomorrow
Tomorrow morning, the ACLU will hold a rally in Washington on the unfairness of mandatory minimum sentences, and specifically, the need to repair the 100:1 crack to powder cocaine sentencing disparity.(Received by e-mail, no link yet.)
Speakers at the rally include:
- Dorothy Gaines, who was charged with conspiracy to deliver crack cocaine due to her then-boyfriend’s alleged participation in a large-scale drug operation as a driver. Ms. Gaines served 6 years of a 19½ year sentence before being granted clemency by President Clinton in 2000.
- Karen Garrison, whose sons are currently serving 15+ years in federal prison for non-violent crack cocaine offenses.
- Kemba Smith, who was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to 24.5 years on charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and related charges after a failed relationship, despite her lack of involvement in any drug dealing operation.
The ACLU's written testimony on the need to reform these draconian, unfair penalties is here.
Several bills to reduce the injustice are pending in Congress. I outlined them here. A hearing is scheduled on them tomorrow before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. [More...]
The ACLU is urging passage of Joe Biden's bill:
In 2008, ACLU urges Congress to enact S.1711 and H.R. 4545, the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007, in order to end the 20-year travesty of justice. As part of this effort, the ACLU has joined with various civil rights organizations for a month-long series of events, culminating in a lobby day scheduled for February 26 aimed at drawing attention to this important issue.
As of Feb. 14, there are four co-sponsors of Biden's bill: Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-NY], Sen. Russell Feingold [D-WI], Sen. John Kerry [D-MA]
Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI]
I see that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced Biden's bill in the House as H.R. 4545. Since she was a co-sponsor of Rangel's bill, H.R. 460, see below on why I prefer it, I suppose Rangel's bill doesn't have a chance.
Biden's bill, as is typical for him, includes a host of other provisions to increase funding for the war on drugs and prosecutors and agents. It provides $36 million for prosecution, 0 for defense and $15 million for prevention and treatment. Too lopsided, in my view.
Also, it does not provide for retroactivity, so it won't help those already serving huge sentences.
Biden's bill also directs the Sentencing Commission to raise the guidelines for a host of other factors, including (along with violence factors) if the offender has a prior drug conviction or imports the drug into the U.S.
The best bill is on the House side, Charlie Rangel's bill, H.R. 460 (with 19 co-sponsors.) It reduces the crack penalties to the current level for powder -- period.
If the ACLU is backing Biden's bill, I suppose it's the one with the greatest chance of passing. So go on over to their legislative action page and get on board.
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