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February 25, 2008

House hearing Tuesday on crack sentencing disparity

As detailed on this official webpage, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security is holding a hearing tomorrow afternoon titled "Cracked Justice – Addressing the Unfairness in Cocaine Sentencing."  I have no idea who is scheduled to testify, though I suspect all the usual suspects will be out in force.

Indeed, this webpage at the Sentencing Project explains that tomorrow has been declared a special day in the legislative battle:

“My community has experienced the harm caused by drug abuse,” said Howard Saffold, a former Chicago police officer and participant in the “Crack the Disparity” Lobby Day cosponsored by The Sentencing Project. “We need services to treat people who are addicted to crack cocaine and employment opportunities for the young men who have, for various reasons, chosen to sell it. Excessive prison terms do not address the real problems.”...Saffold and 50 other community leaders from around the country will attend today's hearing before the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and urge their representatives in Congress to push through crack cocaine sentencing reform this year.

The “Crack the Disparity” Lobby Day is sponsored by: American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Break the Chains, Drug Policy Alliance, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Open Society Policy Center, The Sentencing Project and United Methodist Church.

Another press release concerning the House hearing is available from the Drug Policy Alliance.

Though I am very pleased to see all this energy devoted to an important and highly symbolic issue, I fear that the current Congress is going to little serious interest in moving ahead with serious sentencing reform during this election year.  I feared this was true even before AG Mukasey came out swinging against the modest changes enacted by the US Sentencing Commission last year.  And the fact that all the major candidates seem eager to avoid too much discussion of crime and punishment issues sees to me to largely ensure that 2009 is the earliest that anyone should expect real reforms to have a chance to move forward.  But that's just my gut instinct, and I have been surprised by sentencing politics before and surely will be again in the future.

Some recent related posts:

February 25, 2008 at 06:17 PM | Permalink


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Lots of hearings, no legislation. I think you are right, Doug-- they are just splashing around until after the elections. The problem is that after the election, my hunch is that a new administration will put this issue far down the list of legislative priorities, and it will be held in abeyance some more. I hope I'm wrong about that, but I fear that I'm right.

Posted by: Mark Osler | Feb 26, 2008 1:34:00 AM

I did not pay any attention to the disparities until I became romantically involved with an inmate. He's been down for almost 21 years and I am hurt and angry. What angers me most is the women that these men support and the families forget them. They don't get many visits or letters or any fight from the only people that got anything out of it. I want to do what I can. I visit often, I write, and I talk. Where would I start to become involved in the fight for fair sentencing?

Posted by: G | Jan 20, 2009 4:41:29 PM

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