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September 28, 2007

"Crack Sentencing Is Wack"

05haringspanThe title of this post is the title of this new Slate commentary by Harlan Protess.  Here are some snippets:

In 1986, artist Keith Haring painted a mural called Crack Is Wack on the wall of a handball court in Manhattan.  Its message sums up the attitude of the late 1980s, when Congress was driven to pass new laws punishing crack offenses much more harshly than crimes involving powder cocaine.  For most of the time since, judges, academics, defense lawyers, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission (the expert agency charged by Congress with establishing fair federal sentencing guidelines) have condemned crack penalties as unfair and unfounded.  Lawmakers, however, have obstinately refused to change them.

And yet, thanks to science, common sense, and the Supreme Court, the vast disparity between crack and powder sentencing is poised to end, or at least change....  On Tuesday, in Kimbrough v. United States, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the 1980s sentencing laws and the power of judges to disregard the 100-to-1 ratio so that they can give crack defendants lower sentences.  As Tom Goldstein argues here for Slate, the same majority that prevailed in Booker is likely to give sentencing judges the authority to mete out these reduced sentences.  They still won't be able to go below the mandatory minimums, but above that, they will be able to hand out prison terms shorter than those called for by the 100-to-1 ratio.

September 28, 2007 at 04:44 PM | Permalink


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On Wednesday, October 3rd, legal experts and activists will speak at the George Washington University Law School on the disparity in federal sentencing laws for crack and powder cocaine. The discussion will focus on legislative, legal and grassroots strategies to end the disparity.

The panel will feature:

Judge Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., National Executive Director, National African American Drug Policy Coalition
Ryan King, Policy Analyst, The Sentencing Project
Jesselyn McCurdy, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
Eric Sterling, President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
Jasmine Tyler, Deputy Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
5 p.m.
Reception to follow

The George Washington University Law School
Lisner Hall
2023 G Street NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20006

Posted by: law student | Oct 1, 2007 3:52:24 PM

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