IF A NATIONS VALUES AND IDENTITY WERE JUDGED BY ITS JUSTICE SYSTEM
WHAT WOULD OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM SAY ABOUT US AS A NATION ?
Over the past decade federal judges, the Sentencing Commission and sentencing reform advocates, have brought national attention upon the unfairness and harshness of federal sentencing penalties as applied toward drug offenses. None more so, however, than that of crack cocaine. The spotlight was shined on crack cocaine because it punished offenders 100 times more serious than the penalties as applied to powder cocaine. Individuals found to be in possession of amounts equivalent to that of a few M & M’s, faced mandatory minimum imprisonment terms of five and ten years, even if it were their first conviction.
The justification for such a disparity was the result of Congress believing that crack cocaine was 100 times more dangerous than powder cocaine.
However, through numerous intensive studies it was determined that the fears Congress expressed about crack cocaine “overstated” both “the relative harmfulness” of crack cocaine, and the “seriousness of most crack cocaine offenses.” What was most disturbing was that these studies unmistakably revealed that the 100 – to – 1 differential had one major consequence-- that it promoted unwarranted disparity based on race.”
Approximately 85% of the defendants convicted of crack cocaine offenses in federal court have been black. From an overall perspective African – Americans were serving almost as much time in federal prison for drug offenses (58.7 months) as whites were for violent offenses (61.7 months), largely due to the crack/powder cocaine disparity. As a consequences of such shocking revelations action was taken to eliminate this injustice.
Since 1995 numerous attempts have been made by legislators and the Sentencing Commission to eliminate the racial disparity inflicted by the crack cocaine federal statues and guidelines. Unfortunately, based on Congress fear of being viewed as “soft on crime,” every attempt to change the crack cocaine penalties to equal that of powder cocaine has failed to pass through Congress. Finally in 2010 Congress, after acknowledging a bill proposing a complete elimination of the 100 – to – 1 disparity would not pass, settled on a compromise to reduce the ratio down to 18 – to – 1; Known as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
Though much praise must be given to all those who had a hand in the partial reduction of the penalties for crack cocaine, there are still, unfortunately, 1,000 of inmates who are serving extremely harsh prison sentences that have been proven to be “unwarranted,” “unjust,” “racially discriminative.”
Resulting the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to be anything but "Fair."
Sentenced commuted by President Obama.