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November 13, 2006

Commentary on crack sentencing as USSC hearing approaches

As discussed here and here, the US Sentencing Commission tomorrow will conduct an all-day Public Hearing on "Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy — 2006."  Spurred by this positive development, Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, has this commentary in the Los Angeles Times about crack sentencing law and policy.  Here is a snippet:

Working for the House Judiciary Committee in 1986, I wrote the House bill that was the basis for [the 100-1 crack/powder sentencing] law. We made some terrible mistakes. Those mistakes, aggravated by the Justice Department's misuse of the penalties, have been a disaster.

Conventional wisdom is that the 100-1 ratio needs to be repealed. But that's an inadequate fix.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission — the independent agency that gives sentencing guidelines to federal judges and advises Congress — will hold hearings on this issue.  If logic prevails, in the next Congress we may finally see an end to one of the most unjust laws passed in recent memory.  And that might correct the biggest mistake of my professional life....

The 20-year-old mistake of tiny quantity triggers has distracted both the Justice Department from the proper cases and reformers from the proper fix.  For a generation, anti-drug policy has been built on factual mistakes and tough-sounding rhetoric.  The American people simply need an effective policy.  Truly, that would be tough enough.

November 13, 2006 at 06:46 AM | Permalink


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