Sentencing

Crack Sentencing Reform Getting Closer

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Yesterday Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Fair Sentencing Act, which would eliminate the unjust, irrational disparity in penalties between the smoked and snorted forms of cocaine. More than two decades after Congress created draconian mandatory minimum sentences that treat crack as if it were 100 times worse than cocaine powder, even Republicans acknowledge that the distinction, which has a disproportionate impact on blacks, makes little sense. Although some Republicans want to eliminate the gap by increasing the penalties for cocaine powder, that is not the approach taken by Durbin's bill, which would instead reduce crack penalties by raising the weight thresholds. A related bill already has passed one committee in the House, where it has 52 cosponsors, and the Obama administration has endorsed the change. Assuming this all comes together, sentencing reform will count as President Obama's most significant improvement so far in the area of drug policy, especially since the impact of his shift regarding medical marijuana remains to be seen.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums has more here. I explained why this change is long overdue in a 2007 column.

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  1. Props to the Big O for being on the right side of this.

    And a big kick in the ‘nads to the Republicans for being caricatures of themselves.

    Still, though, do we have to pretend that Obama has made a shift on medical marijuana? You need a fucking electron microscope to detect real change in fed policy and practice.

    1. Give me a fucking break. If it weren’t for the fucking Democrats, this particular law wouldn’t be here in the first place. The only people caricaturizing themselves are the ones insisting that those arrested for this crime must be victims of some dastardly racist plot to keep down the black man.

      1. Do your research asshole. Blacks are still treated differently in 2010. Your a dumb ass!

    2. And it is oh so courageous for Barack Obama to come out on the “right side” of a bill that will probably advance nowhere. So quickly the people on this site have forgotten his campaign promises about marijuana only to have him turn around and mock questioners asking about the same subject during a townhall. Christ, is today “hey let’s trip all over ourselves to make it look like we think the most statist president in the history of the United States is really a swell guy” day?

  2. If it were up to me, I would legalize all drugs. Having said that, ignoring that the sale and use of crack in poor communities causes distinctly greater damage to society than snorting coke by upper-middle class folks is just burying your head in the sand. Allow me to reiterate, legalize it all, and treat people who want to get clean. Imagine all the social upheaval, not to mention expense, we would be able to avoid.

    1. Could it not be that harsher penalties essentially for being poor and black might have a damaging effect on those parts of society?

      I think you’re not getting the causal factors right here.

      1. Harsher penalties for being poor and black? Give me a break. Because the police are just arresting random poor and black people and charging them with possession and distribution.
        Liberals are so retardly predictable with their “poor people should be lionized even though they contribute next-to-nothing to society” routine that it is nauseating.

        Here’s a tip: don’t commit the damn crime.

        1. Duke: The lights are growing dim, Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.
          Otto: That’s bullshit. You’re a white suburban punk just like me.
          Duke: Yeah, but it still hurts.

        2. Here’s a tip for you: don’t make a crime out of activities that don’t violate anyone’s rights, and are none of your fucking business.

          1. Which, of course, is the problem. Get all the crimes off the books that don’t involve injury or potential injury to another person or his property (there might be a couple of exceptions–have to think about it). That would do a world of good.

            Where any group has a tendency to commit a disproportionate amount of real crimes (like crimes of violence), I don’t have all that much sympathy for their complaints against the laws themselves. If your group murders too many people, maybe the problem isn’t the law, it’s something in your subculture. As Otto notes above (damned punk suburban kids).

            1. It’s my fault for using threaded comments, but my post was meant for “some guy”, not Pro Lib.

              The really sad thing is how many people refuse to see how the War on Drugs creates violence. It gives people huge incentives to be as violent as possible.

        3. Here’s a tip, don’t make any and everything some dip shit doesn’t approve of a criminal offense. The fact is that the poor are disproportionately targeted and victimized by this absurd “war on drugs”.

        4. I wonder if we would have a country if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Qunincy Adams and Benjamin Franklin didn’t “commit the damn crime”. Just because something is illegal does not mean it’s wrong. Just as because something is legal that doesn’t make it right….Hitler proved that.

      2. So Tony believes that being poor and black is essentially the same thing as smoking crack.

        RAAAAAAAAACCCCCISSSSSSST!!!!!!!11111!!!

  3. Crack is worse than cocaine. Duh.

    1. Not to the degree that the previous mandatory minimums would have you believe. This is a step in the right direction, though the War on Drugs is still pretty FUBAR.

  4. Hey, there’s a typo there, you have a “D” beside the bills sponsor, and that can’t be correct as SIV and other right-leaning libertarians will tell you, conservatives are better on drug freedom than Democrats…Surely Tom Coburn Freedom-lover is the sponsor…

    1. Drug freedom? Oh, I forgot about the inalienable right to distribute illicit narcotics. My bad.

      1. So which part of the Constitution states the federal government has the right to control drugs, again?

        Oh, that’s right, the 18th amendment. Too fucking bad for you they repealed it.

        1. Remember how back when the Harrison Act was passed in 1914 and the Marihuana (sic) Tax Act of 1938 were passed, Congress still had the quaint idea that they couldn’t regulate everything in the freaking country just because they felt like it, and that in order to regulate drugs they had to employ the taxing power?

          1. And by the 1940’s, they no longer felt the need to perform such runarounds. One more example of one restriction of freedom leading to more restrictions.

            1. That’s a bit of a stretch. Correlation is not causation, son.

      2. How about my inalienable right to do anything I want to MY body. Or do you and I not have that right because of somethning in the Constitution?

    2. They are equally bad.

      The fact is that if this passes people will still be going to jail for this activity. If there is a difference it is so minor as to be unimportant.

      And it was of course in part because of the Democrats that these newer, more draconian laws came to pass- thank the Democratic saint Tip O’Neill for that one.

    3. So you’re saying it was the Republicans who are responsible for the Len Bias Law? Which was enacted, you know, back in 1988, when Jim Wright (D-Tex.) was Speaker of the House and former Klansman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was Majority Leader of the Senate?

  5. Assuming this all comes together, sentencing reform will count as President Obama’s most significant improvement so far in the area of drug policy, especially since the impact of his shift regarding medical marijuana remains to be seen.

    Damning him with faint praise, I see.

  6. Sigh. MNG, gloating about this is like gloating that someone’s pet dog survived after you dropped an H-bomb on their city.

  7. Oh, sorry, I forgot to append my appendum.

    Adnotatiunculae bilicis delenda est.

  8. And by “reform”, they mean make it much more expensive?

    I am not sure what this word means anymore. I read a few Paul Krugman columns and now have no frame of reference left.

  9. GILMORE,

    Well, there’s a legal definition of “reform” that might work: “to put (a writing) into a corrected form that more accurately reflects the agreement of the parties.” So, if the political parties agree that a law needs to be changed to better screw America, that would be “reforming” that law.

    That, or just substitute the word “deform” for “reform” whenever the government or its cheerleaders use it.

  10. Just a small quibble with this phrase: “even Republicans acknowledge that the distinction, which has a disproportionate impact on blacks, makes little sense.”

    Not to defend the GOP’s stance on drug policy, which is a few standard deviations below retarded, but it was actually the 100%-Democrat membership Congressional Black Caucus that pushed extremely hard for the initial bill that made crack penalties harsher than those for cocaine. It was an ass-backwards attempt to address the pretty quick onset of the crack epidemic in the black community.

  11. Perhaps the sentencing guidelines should be changed, but the notion that there is something inherently wrong with the law because it “has a disproportionate impact on blacks” is total bullshit. Generally, that tends to happen when a particular group breaks a particular law more than any other.

    1. Why don’t you do your research before you make a comment. The fact is blacks are sentenced more harsh for the exact same drug. Get some business, your most likely white, so you wouldn’t understand.

  12. “Generally, that tends to happen when a particular group breaks a particular law more than any other.”

    Well, OK, but if a government raises the penalties for breaking of a law that is known to be broken more by one group, and the crime has no more negative effects on society than another law with lesser punishments, then what’s going on?

  13. This is about the only thing my senator has done that I agree with. Sad, isn’t it.

  14. So Durbin isn’t 100% evil after all? So after he dies, I guess that after each thousand years he spends baking in hell, angel will fetch him a drop of water and place it on his tongue because of this one good act he did in his life.

  15. PEOPLE WE MUST LEARN THAT WE ARE NOT TO JUDGE SOMEONE BY THE COLOR OF HIS, OR HER SKIN. WE AS A SOCIETY MUST ALSO KNOW THAT WHEN GOD SEE US HE SEE NO DIFFERENT IN ANY INDIVIDUAL. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IS AFRICAN AMERICAN DOES NOT MEAN THEY USE CRACK AND JUST BECAUSE ONE IS CAUCASIN DOES NOT MEAN HE, OR SHE USES POWDER SO MY POINT IS DRUGS IS DRUGS CRACK AND POWDER ARE BOTH THE SAME ONLY THING ONE IS HARD AND ONE IS NOT SO WHY GIVE THOSE WHO USE OR SELL THE HARD MORE TIME THAN THE ONE WHO USE OR SELL THE POWDER.. HELLO AMERICA SOMEONE BETTER WAKE UP…

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