Tag: crack-powder cocaine penalties
Great news out of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security today. It unanimously passed the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, a bill that eliminates the disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine sentences -- and removes the 5 year mandatory minimum for simple possession.
The bill is H.R. 3245, sponsored by Representative Robert Scott (D-VA). This bill goes about eliminating the disparity the best way. It simply removes references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. federal code and removes the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.
This is way better than some of the other bills which would change the penalty but add new crimes and throw more money into the War on Drugs.
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Attorney General Eric Holder spoke yesterday at the D.C. Court of Appeals Judicial Conference. His prepared remarks are here. On the issue of crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, he told them:
It is the view of this Administration that the 100-to-1 crack-powder sentencing ratio is simply wrong. It is plainly unjust to hand down wildly disparate prison sentences for materially similar crimes. It is unjust to have a sentencing disparity that disproportionately and illogically affects some racial groups. I know the American people can see this. And that perception of unfairness undermines governmental authority in the criminal justice process and breeds disrespect for the system. It leads victims and witnesses of crime to think twice before cooperating with law enforcement, tempts jurors to ignore the law and facts when judging a criminal case, and draws the public into questioning the motives of its officials. ...
I am confident that most of us agree that this situation benefits no one and must be reformed.
Holder also warned not to expect change overnight. [More...]
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Bumped: Today the House Judiciary Committee (Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security)is holding a hearing on the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.
Members of Congress will receive a petition with 21,000 signatures calling for an end to the disparity. The hearing is called “Unfairness in Federal Cocaine Sentencing: Is it Time to Crack the 100 to 1 Disparity?"
Among the witnesses is a former U.S. Attorney, Veronica Coleman-Davis (Tennessee). From her written testimony:
“After more than 20 years, multiple studies debunking the myths, recommendations from the United States Sentencing Commission, and at least two generations of families and children torn by the systemic imposition of imprisonment for one -100th the amount of cocaine than their white counterparts, it is surely not only good policy but also good politics to correct this injustice,”
The pending bills addressing the disparity are:[More...]
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Attorney General Michael Mukasey has announced the Bush Administration will give $200 million to state and local governments to fight crime. Among his reasons:
Mukasey also rapped U.S. Sentencing Commission plans to allow some 19,500 federal prison inmates, most of them black, to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences. The attorney general described many of the inmates as violent gang members who could threaten public safety if released sooner than initially expected.
"A sudden influx of criminals from federal prison into your communities could lead to a surge in new victims as a tragic but predictable result," Mukasey told the mayors.
Only a small percentage of those 19,500 inmates will get any benefit from the change. For those that do, in most cases, the average sentence reduction is expected to be about 16 months. Many of those serving these draconian sentences are not violent criminals but drug offenders unlucky enough to have been caught possessing or selling the wrong drug.
Bush and Mukasey should have put the $200 million into drug treatment and offender re-entry programs. It would be far better spent and of greater ultimate benefit both to the inmates being released and the communities that receive them.
I guess this shows Mukasey, like Bush, intends to continue to be tough rather than smart about crime. [More....]
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