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January 18, 2011

"The Moral Urgency of Crack Retroactivity"

The title of this post is the headline of this commentary by Julie Stewart, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which ran yesterday at The Huffington Post.  Here is how it begins:

On August 3, 2010, the nation's first African-American president signed into law a bill to reform what many considered the most racially discriminatory sentencing policy in federal law.  The old policy required dramatically more severe penalties for crimes involving crack cocaine than for offenses involving powder cocaine.  The president and Congress deserve credit for working together to lower crack penalties.  Yet, in a cruel irony, they failed to provide any relief to the very prisoners whose unnecessarily harsh sentences they had pointed to as the impetus for reform.  As our nation celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., we implore the president and new Congress to listen to their consciences, do what is right, and apply the reformed crack penalties retroactively to all offenders.

January 18, 2011 at 06:57 PM | Permalink


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What? This woman actually believed that "fierce urgency of now" claptrap?

Posted by: federalist | Jan 18, 2011 9:40:01 PM

If someone wrote an article for this site, no matter how persuasive and reasonable it might be, would anyone take it seriously?


There are no outright lies. However, it is so biased as to be dismissed. Same with the Huffington Post. Any article at either sites becomes worthless. They also share the policy of not allowing any negative comments for guest articles.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 18, 2011 10:40:27 PM

Is there any moral urgency to refraining from peddling crack?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 19, 2011 2:18:58 AM

Wow, a triple tag-team attack response from federalist, SC and Bill. I think Julie Stewart should feel strangely honored.

That all said, other than the (small but tangible) risk of increased crime --- which, of course, comes with any early release or sentence reduction program --- I would love to hear from this troika the best merits/policy argument for not making the FSA (and/or the new USSG provisions they ordered) retroactive. Are the just practical/pragmatic claims against retroactivity here, or are there forceful policy/principle claims in your view?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 19, 2011 12:23:00 PM

I haven't really weighed in on this, but my view would be to not act retroactively. I just have a general view that letting criminals go early. Plus, had the prosecutors known about the lesser punishments, their charging decisions may have been different.

The impetus for my comment was the utter naivete of Ms. Stewart. I wonder if she believes it when people say that the "check is in the mail".

Posted by: federalist | Jan 20, 2011 9:25:20 PM

There we have it, "had the prosecutors known about the lesser punishments, their charging decisions may have been different." Who should sentence. prosecutors or judge?

Having the power to prosecute and sentence perhaps concentrates a bit too much power.

Posted by: beth | Jan 20, 2011 9:52:53 PM

I think you are right when you say this. Hats off man, what a superlative knowledge you have on this subject…hope to see more work of yours.

Posted by: Health Blog | Jan 26, 2011 8:09:08 AM

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