May 15, 2006
New ACS issue brief on crack sentencing disparity
Providing a fitting follow-up to my last post on a conference about race and criminal justice, I just got word that the the American Constitution Society is about to release a new white paper by Nkechi Taifa, a Senior Policy Analyst for the Open Society Institute and adjunct professor at Howard University School of Law, entitled "The 'Crack/Powder' Disparity: Can the International Race Convention Provide a Basis for Relief?." This paper can be accessed at this link at the ACS website, and here is the official description:
The federal criminal penalty structure for the possession and distribution of crack cocaine is one hundred times more severe than the penalty structure relating to powder cocaine. Blacks comprise the vast majority of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses while the majority of those convicted of powder cocaine offenses are white. This disparity has led to inordinately harsh sentences disproportionately meted out to African American defendants that are far more severe than sentences for comparable activity by white defendants. Indeed, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that revising this one sentencing rule would do more to reduce the sentencing gap between blacks and whites "than any other single policy change," and would "dramatically improve the fairness of the federal sentencing system." Notwithstanding widespread recognition of the inequity of the current sentencing scheme, courts have found that domestic law affords no remedy. In this white paper, Nkechi Taifa examines that failure of U.S. law to address this disparity and explores ways that principles from the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination could form a basis for relief.
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