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March 8, 2009

"New look at sentencing guidelines for cocaine"

The title of this post is the title of this effective piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle. Here are snippets:

Willie Mays Aikens has returned to Kansas City, where he's still a star. He's worked in construction and hopes to land a job with Major League Baseball, maybe as a counselor, he says, "talking to people about what drugs can do to a person." People in Kansas City still talk about Aikens' four home runs for the Royals in the 1980 World Series. They seem ready to forgive the crack cocaine bust that earned him a 16-year prison term....

Aikens' path was dark indeed, but not because his crime was large. The drug sale that sent him to prison was 64 grams, about a quarter cup. The federal cocaine sentencing statutes treat that much crack the same as a bucket of cocaine powder, the material from which crack is produced.

Aikens' case exemplifies all that's gone wrong because of these federal sentencing laws: The focus on petty crimes. The distortion of priorities in the war on drugs. The lopsided impact on African Americans - the 83 percent of federal crack defendants who are black, though a federal health survey found most crack users are white. The problems have been documented for years. Now it's time for a change....

Federal prosecutions target petty crack cocaine cases throughout the nation, destroying the lives of many small-time offenders and squandering resources in the war on drugs. The U.S. Sentencing Commission tallied all 4,262 crack cases for 2006. It calculated a median drug quantity of 1.8 ounces.

Surprisingly, among the strictest jurisdictions was the Northern California district based in San Francisco. A single ounce of crack was involved in the median case here, enough to cover the bottom of a teacup.

March 8, 2009 at 01:23 PM | Permalink


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I think the law is unfair. FED picked my husband up 4 years after crime of crack. After he had stopped selling. he got 8 years for46 grams. he made 2 sells of 46 grams. I need him home to raise children. what can I do?

Posted by: janet | Jul 17, 2009 10:29:44 PM

my fiance is serving a life sentence for selling crack.what since does it make that he serves a longer sentence than some murderers. He has been incarcerated for 15years already. Is that not long enough.He has a daughter and a fiance waiting on him. I am a college student raising our daughter and his step daughter, while he sits in prison. Is there any help for us.

Posted by: mary cottrell | Dec 2, 2009 9:54:21 PM

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