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November 28, 2010

Editorial urges crack/powder parity even after FSA

Because I fear that the push for crack sentencing reforms will lose steam now that the Fair Sentencing Act became law, I was pleased to see this new editorial in the Grand Rapids Press headlined "Goverment should treat crack, powder cocaine offenders the same." Here are excerpts:

The same drug crime is being committed whether a person snorts powder cocaine in the suburbs or smokes crack cocaine in the ’hood.

One form of cocaine should not be sentenced harsher than another. A federal law took effect this month that finally eliminates much of the disparity in prison sentences that’s resulted in blacks disproportionately doing harder time.

Punishment for breaking the law should be tough but fair. The new guidelines are a strong step in the right direction — but “fairer” isn’t the same as “fair.” Congress should seek parity.

Crack is the cheaper form of cocaine, and it is used predominantly by low-income people in urban areas. Blacks represent roughly 80 percent of those sentenced to longer prison terms for crack cocaine crimes....

Last year, Lanny Breuer, assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, testified before a Senate Committee that “we cannot ignore the mounting evidence that the current cocaine sentencing disparity is difficult to justify based on the facts and science, including evidence that crack is not an inherently more addictive substance than powder cocaine.”...

Everyone wants to keep communities safe and see the devastating impact illegal drugs have on families and communities decline. But laws must be smart, tough and fair. Just as federal officials said there was no definitive evidence behind the rationale for the adoption of the 100-to-1 ratio, there is none for 18-to-1. Congress should enact 1-to-1 parity.

Public trust and confidence are vital to an effective criminal justice system.

November 28, 2010 at 05:49 PM | Permalink

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