Sentencing Disparities For Cocaine to End Soon

April 30, 2009

(ChattahBox)—It looks like the unfair “100 to 1” ratio sentencing law for cocaine possession will soon end. The current law contains huge disparities in sentencing between possession of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine, treating crack cocaine more harshly, and the Obama administration supports a bill to equalize punishment for offenders in possession of the drug.

President Obama promised during his campaign to rectify the unequal sentencing treatment for possessing crack as opposed to powdered cocaine.

Civil rights critics and even many law enforcement officials have long lamented the grave disparity in the sentencing law, as it unduly affects poor minority defendants, who are more likely to use crack cocaine because it’s significantly cheaper than the powder variety.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, recently appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a bill to equalize cocaine sentencing. Bruer told Congress Obama was in support of a bill that would “eliminate” the unequal treatment.

The controversial sentencing law was instituted in 1986 and since that time the nation’s federal prisons have become filled with drug offenders. The results of the sentencing law have been devastating. Democratic Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois noted that more than half of all federal inmates are locked up for drug-related crimes.

One only has to look at the racial makeup of those sentenced for crack cocaine possession to realize the enormity of the sentencing problem. In 2007 Senator Durbin says, 82 percent of those convicted for crack possession were black, and only 9 percent were white. The racial disparity is just astounding.

The “100 to 1” ratio law sends offenders to jail for a mandatory 5-year prison term for possession of just 5 grams of crack, which is similar to two small sugar cubes. It would take an offender caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same stiff penalty.

The reform of Cocaine sentencing laws is long overdue. Thankfully President Obama is taking a common sense approach to the so called War on Drugs, which has been an unmitigated failure, filling our prisons with crack and pot smokers.

Obama plans to divert funds used to lock up drug offenders and use the money for more treatment, counseling, and job training.

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