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March 16, 2008

Op-ed on "Crack-cocaine sentencing injustice"

Professor Mark Osler has this new op-ed titled "Crack-cocaine sentencing injustice."  Here are snippets:

By 1995, hundreds of African-Americans had been prosecuted for crack offenses, but relatively few whites. In 1993, for instance, over 88 percent of the mandatory minimum sentences for crack were imposed on blacks. Aside from the obvious racial disparity, the law did not seem to be doing its job of deterring crime. The crack epidemic expanded at the same time as the prison population. Part of the problem with the 100:1 ratio was that it was an incentive to sweep up the members of a drug conspiracy who were most easily replaced....

For nearly two decades, the 100:1 ratio was part of mandatory minimum sentences and the federal sentencing guidelines.  However, recently the 100:1 ratio finally was bent back toward reasonableness. First, the United States Sentencing Commission modified the federal sentencing guidelines. It reduced sentences for crack cocaine relative to powder, but still provided stiffer sentences for crack.  Next, the Supreme Court ruled that judges could depart from the 100:1 ratio if they disagreed with it on policy grounds.  Finally, the Sentencing Commission decided that the changes in the crack law would apply retroactively....

Even after these long-overdue changes, one voice cried out in support of maintaining the 100:1 ratio. That was Attorney General Michael Mukasey.  Despite the near-uniform urging of experts that the ratio be changed, Mukasey urged Congress to reverse the Sentencing Commission’s decision.

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March 16, 2008 at 01:23 PM | Permalink

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