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January 20, 2009

The Obama Administration moves forward (on-line) with its "change" agenda for criminal justice

A helpful reader suggested I take note of the fact that the criminal justice issues previously identified as part of the Obama-Biden agenda on the old change.gov website (noted here in November 2008 with what are now "dead" links) has now migrated to the new WhiteHouse.gov website.  Specifically, under the Agenda section and in this civil rights subdivision of WhiteHouse.gov, one now finds these commitments:

  • Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
  • Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
  • Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.

Since it is now only four hours since he took office, I suppose I cannot and should not yet expect action on all these fronts today.  But these (relatively tepid) promises really can and should become priorities in the first 100 days of the new Administration (and just a few symbolic and strategic clemencies in the next few days might go a long way toward energizing all the public policy groups working these important areas).

January 20, 2009 at 04:17 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The policy of "completely eliminat[ing]" the disparity between crack and power-based cocaine sentences raises several questions in my mind:

1) Does this mean that President Obama and VP Biden will advocate for a 1-to-1 ratio, which has been rejected by Congress once before? How did Biden vote on that issue, anyone know?

2) Does this mean that the statutory mand. mins. for powder will be increased, or does it mean the statutory mand. mins. for crack will be decreased?

3) Any change to the statute's sentencing provisions will likely be followed by a change to the Guidelines. In order to "completely eliminate[]" the unjust disparity in crack sentencing, will any Guideline amendment reducing crack sentences be applied retroactively?

Posted by: DEJ | Jan 20, 2009 4:46:14 PM

"Tepid" is right.

We'd have probably gotten that much with four more years of George Bush.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 20, 2009 6:55:10 PM

Does this mean that, in crack prosecutions, line AUSAs will be more open to, or even required to agree to, plea agreements that include the parties agreement that a sentence using the cocaine guidelines should be considered or even endorsed by the District Court at sentencing? Will 851 enhancements disappear in order to amelioriate the mandatory minimums found in the statutes until Congress amends the relevant statutes?

Let's see where this goes.

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