July 26, 2010
Is the House finally about to pass the compromise crack/powder reform bill?
As regular readers know, there has mostly been radio silence in the House of representatives concerning reform of federal crack/powder statutes since the Senate passed a compromise reform bill back in March. But lately there has been a lot more buzz about this bill, including this editorial in today's New York Times headlined "The House Should Listen and Learn." (This follows up last week's Washington Pot editorial on the same topic.) Here is an excerpt of the NYT editorial:
A “tough on crime” federal law that requires harsher prison terms for people arrested with crack cocaine than with the powered version of the drug is scientifically indefensible and hugely unfair. A bill that reduces this onerous sentencing disparity has passed the Senate easily. The House, which has been vacillating over whether or not to schedule a vote on the Senate bill, needs to show the same good sense....
Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, sensibly called for equalizing the sentences in his original Senate bill. Mr. Durbin accepted a compromise that still penalizes crack more heavily than powder, but less so than the original law. It is still unfair. But it would ensure that thousands of drug defendants each year received fairer treatment from the courts.
The Senate passed its bill unanimously with the support of law enforcement groups like the National District Attorneys Association and the sponsorship of conservative Republicans, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. That means that House members have all the political cover they need to quickly do the same.
I suspect all this new buzz on this important topic means that there is a real move afoot to get the House to vote on this bill and to try to get something to President Obama before the August recess. I hope this is what is going on, because the misguided 100 to 1 ratio has been law far too long, and any change is change for the better.
Some related posts from when the Senate passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010:
- Unanimous(!!) vote by Senate Judiciary Committee to reduce (but not eliminate) crack/powder disparity
- Varied reactions to the crack/powder reform work of the Senate Judiciary Committee
- Full Senate passes bill to reduce (but not eliminate) crack/powder disparity
- Will and should House adopt the crack/powder reform compromise passed by Senate?
- Different editorial perspectives on crack reform compromise
- Questions about the "when" and "now what" for crack/powder sentencing reform
- What's the status of crack/powder sentencing reform in the House?
July 26, 2010 at 08:37 AM | Permalink
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2 more things they can fix.
Restore goodtime days HR1475. $71/day * 46 more days/yr (avg based length of sentence) = $3266 yr /in mate saved. $3266 * 191,000 inmates = $623,806,000 saved every year
Ratio of psuedo/ephedrine to Meth is 5 to 1. Psuedo converts to 10 kg of marihuana and meth converts to 2 kg. Crystal is 20 k. Meth is to whites as crack is to blacks. Need an immediate retroactive 2 level drop for Meth offenders.. ...Fair is fair...
Posted by: Abe | Jul 26, 2010 10:03:33 AM
They could also get off the dime on HR5492 the "Fresh Start Act of 2010"
Posted by: While You are Wishing | Jul 26, 2010 1:56:29 PM
Your right on the mark, wishing...Its just too bad that Congress is so orientated towards making the right political moves... No wonder nothing gets done.. Too busy running the actions through an algorithm to see if it hurts their chances for re election...America needs to clean house...Dump the dead beats...Revoke retirement after just serving 1 term, revoke lifetime health insurance etc...We are becoming a Federalistic country.
Its sad to see so much of our output wasted on government programs and elected officals. If we could just pay them to stay away and let the country optimized itself, self policing...We really haven't recovered from the sub prime fiasco yet...Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, sounds like a new sandwich at McDonalds..
Posted by: Abe | Jul 26, 2010 2:55:50 PM
The shift in the mandatory minimums under the new law is great, but it's not the end of the story. Unfortunately, in most cases, the change from a 100-to-1 ratio to an 18-to-1 ratio results in only a 2-offense level reduction in the sentencing guidelines off the current crack level, and thus a dramatic disparity remains. In some cases, it doesn't change the guidelines at all. For example, 30 grams of crack now gives you base offense level 26. Applying an 18-to-1 ratio, that is the same as 540 grams of powder, which gives you a base offense level 26 -- no change, and no change in the mand min of 5 years. Applying a 1-to-1 ratio, on the other hand, the base offense level would be 14.
Ironically, it may be that in some cases defendants are actually worse off if the bill passes, because those judges who have been applying a 1-to-1 ratio while the bills are pending may feel constrained to revert to an 18-to-1 ratio if Congress adopts it. We need to get to 1-to-1 and it's a shame that we don't seem to be headed that way.
Posted by: sm | Jul 26, 2010 3:36:51 PM
There was also an excellent op-ed by Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship, in Friday's Washington Times here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/22/reform-means-fairness/
Momentum is growing! About time, too.
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it may be that in some cases defendants are actually worse off if the bill passes, because those judges who have been applying a 1-to-1 ratio while the bills are pending may feel constrained to revert to an 18-to-1 ratio if Congress adopts it. We need to get to 1-to-1 and it's a shame that we don't seem to be headed that way.
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