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February 9, 2008

NY Times and NAACP speak out against the AG on crack retroactivity

AG Michael Mukasey's recent congressional testimony urging Congress to block retroactivity for the new crack guidelines (basics here and here) has now brought this new editorial from the New York Times and this new press release from the NAACP.  Here are excerpts:

From the NY Times:

Attorney General Michael Mukasey tried to scare the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday into blocking a responsible plan by the United States Sentencing Commission to address the gross disparity in penalties for possession or sale of crack cocaine and those for powder cocaine offenses. His alarm is unwarranted.... Instead of brandishing overblown fears to try to defeat a limited reform, Mr. Mukasey should be working with Congress to finally end the damaging 100-to-1 rule.

From the NAACP:

The NAACP was both saddened and offended by Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s call for Congress to override the decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply their May 2007 decision to reduce the recommended mandatory minimum sentencing range for conviction of possession of crack cocaine retroactive to those already in prison. “Attorney General Mukasey’s characterization of people currently in prison for crack cocaine convictions, and of the impact that a potential reduction in their sentences could have on our communities, is not only inaccurate and disingenuous, but it is alarmist and plays on the worst fears and stereotypes many Americans had of crack cocaine users in the 1980s,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton.

“The fact that a federal judge will be called to review every case individually and take into account if there were other factors involved in the conviction, whether it be the use of a gun, violence, death or the defendant’s criminal history before determining if the retroactivity can apply, appears to have eluded the Attorney General,” Shelton added. “Furthermore, because more than 82 percent of those currently in prison for federal crack cocaine convictions are African Americans and 96 percent are racial or ethnic minorities, the NAACP is deeply concerned at the Attorney General’s callous characterization that many of the people in question are ‘violent gang members’.”

February 9, 2008 at 09:20 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Sep 21, 2009 2:31:28 PM


Perhaps the NAACP would be taken more seriously if it cared more about people like Cheryl Green than people like Tookie Williams.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 9, 2008 10:18:35 AM

Perhaps the Attorney General would be taken more seriously if he did not distort the facts and ignore the law.

Posted by: abe | Feb 9, 2008 11:50:23 AM

Perhaps all this african american leaders would be taken more seriously if they paid more attention to other groups as well not just blacks.

People in the border are getting grossly disproportionate sentences because they are hispanics and are more likely to resort to drug dealing because of geographic location, and high levels of poverty along the border. Particularly the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, which is the poorest region in the country.

Posted by: EJ | Feb 9, 2008 2:32:55 PM

Perhaps federalist would be taken more seriously if he did not pretend to care about people he demonstratively does not.

Posted by: DK | Feb 9, 2008 6:04:45 PM

Hmmm, a "federal judge will be called to review every case individually" and determine if the defendant is dangerous - Judges like those in Oregon and Mass who've ALREADY started granting sentence reductions and ordering the release of inmates??????? The same founts of wisdom whose whimsical and undisciplined decisons sentencing defendants led to the creation of the Guidelines in the first place? Boy, that fills ME with confidence!

Posted by: anonymous | Feb 9, 2008 9:23:47 PM

If you read the article, you would see that prosecutors supported those orders in Oregon and Massachusetts. The policy statement encourages prosecutors to oppose a reduction if they have evidence the prisoner is dangerous. There was no such evidence in those cases, and there is no such evidence in most cases. Read the Commission's 2007 report, finding that there was no actual violence or threat in 86.9% of cases, and no actual violence in 94.5% of cases. Moreover, if BOP is doiong its job, everyone should be reformed. Ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: abe | Feb 9, 2008 10:14:22 PM

This AG has a short run. He inherited a horrible mess from Gonzo--particularly the firings. The NY Times editorial is spot on.
The 100 to 1 sentencing disparity is a product of people in Congress who stomp on the backs of their citizens to advance their own political careers by appearing tough on crime.

Congress will have some solid research on recividism and the social impact of having 2.2 million persons incarcerated--many for small amounts of crack. Then they will have the scare mongers like the AG.
Its an election year and they will not have the guts to do the right thing.

Posted by: M.P. Bastian | Feb 10, 2008 6:57:37 AM

DK, please point to a post where it shows that I "demonstrably" don't care about innocent people.

The answer is that you cannot. I guess you think that a tough-on-crime conservative must have certain ideas, and that's good enough for you. Pathetic.

It is an interesting question--why did the NAACP get more worked up about the legal execution of Tookie Williams than it did over the fate of Cheryl Green, executed on the streets of LA because she was black? That the question is a hard one does not mean that it shouldn't be asked.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 10, 2008 10:57:34 AM


Perhaps you did not realize, but the moniker you have chosen to post under describes your political views fairly completely. You reject any economic or social support for the poor and working class, including Cheryl Green and persons like her. I presume you would be eager to abolish her public school. You have no desire to ensure she has a guaranteed shelter in which to live. Indeed, you would argue that should she as an adult be unable to afford health care or find a job that provides it to her, it is perfectly acceptable for her to die should she get sick. You also would refuse to support social and economic redistributive policies that, if implemented, could in fact have meant that Cheryl Green would never have been murdered at all. So, clearly, you do not care about Cheryl Green, only pretend to advance your real (and perverse) interest: inflicting even more suffering on poor people.

(I noticed that you responded only by questioning my evidence, not my assertion. At least you're honest, even if only by omission. And your "question" is no question at all. The NAACP does advocate for persons like Cheryl Green. You oppose them when they do. See above paragraph if you don't get it.)

Posted by: DK | Feb 10, 2008 9:11:50 PM

Rant on DK, rant on. That one does not support "redistribution", as if taxes aren't high enough already, means that one doesn't care about the poor. Whatever.

In any event, the NAACP chooses to spend what little moral capital it has left advocating for people like Tookie Williams, rather than victims of racist gangs like F13. And now they are fighting to get criminals released from prison. An interesting set of priorities.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 10, 2008 10:21:43 PM

federalist: I guess you would claims that little league coaches, boy scout den mothers, and church deacons have an "interesting set of priorities," too, no? Just because people do not expend all of their efforts on The Most Important Issue (according to federalist) says nothing about their character. People do what we can, where we can. Some, like you, can only "demonstrably" point to blog posts. And that's ok.

Posted by: | Feb 10, 2008 10:42:26 PM

Oh, we don't need to raise taxes. (Always looking out for numero uno, eh?) We just need to shift expenditures from killing people around the world to not killing people back home. There's plenty of money already there to reduce the violent crime rate to virtually nil, not that you care about that.

The NAACP has plenty of moral capital. (By the way, what Southern state are you from?)

Posted by: DK | Feb 10, 2008 10:48:29 PM

Funny how a simple observation, i.e., that the NAACP chose to get more worked up over the legal execution of a quadruple murderer than it did over the fate of a 14 year old girl executed on the streets of LA because of her race, triggers all this vituperation.

Funny how a thinly-veiled racism accusation comes when you ask hard questions or point out uncomfortable facts.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 11, 2008 12:53:05 AM

What's wrong with vituperation? You express hateful sentiments around here all the time. I just direct my contempt at people like you instead of the powerless, mentally ill poor people at which you direct yours.

(By the way, the "hard question" you asked was answered in my very first response, 9:11:50. Unlike you, the NAACP advocates for people when they are alive. You know, to try to help them. You and your ilk are the only people who callously use the dead as a pretext to further advance your agenda of state killing and death.)

Posted by: DK | Feb 11, 2008 10:03:48 AM

Your definition of "hateful" must mean "disagrees with me".

Nothing's wrong with vituperation. It just makes you look silly.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 11, 2008 10:07:19 AM

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