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A Rational Approach To Drug Sentencing

A Rational Approach To Drug Sentencing

Efforts to equalize sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine possession took a significant step forward as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security voted in favor of the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) eliminates current sentencing disparities, including removing the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.

This reform has been long in the works.  Policy makers from every level of government, including former President George W. Bush lobbied in support of legislation that would end sentencing disparities.  Current sentences for crack cocaine offenses are approximately 100 times more severe than for powder cocaine offenses.  The impact of those sentences has fallen disproportionately on the African-American community.

In response to the Subcommittee vote, Michael Macleod-Ball, Interim Director of the ACLU Washington Legislation Office said “This vote is an historic first step in ending a 20-year injustice.  Lawmakers must act now to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing by treating both forms of the same drug equally under federal law.  Congress alone has the authority to put a stop to the crack-poweder disparity and long mandatory minimum sentences.”

Equal treatment under the law is all this legislation is aimed for.  Critics deride it as a “soft on crime” measure, despite the fact that the only goal is to create uniform punishments for uniform crimes.  Doing so would bring some rationality and humanity to both our rehabilitative and punitive goals of dealing with drug offenders.  Contact your Congressional representative and urge them to support the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009.

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photo courtesy of Foxtounge via Flickr.

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10:03AM PDT on Aug 11, 2009

This is still a long way from being "a rational approach." Our jails are overflowing with citizens whose only "crime" is to ingest what they choose. If that isn't irrational on the face of it, my 30 years in the field of psychiatry aren't worth much. If there is no victim, there should be no crime. Sort of the ultimate "No harm: no foul."

8:53AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

Under the WTF? category, I do not think I've had as much trouble finding information anything as tough as it is to find drug use penalties. Here's Montana:

If you can parse this in under 10 minutes, I envy you. Whew. And, whaaaaah? How on earth is this a deterent if nobody knows what the penalty is, and can't even find out without doing college level research.

I'm not finding any "life for selling X." But I'm not finding much of anything, so I can't discount what you've read in Connelly's book. But I hope Sean's wrong and it's been fixed. One nutty session of The Lege with a fruit loops "tough on crime" Gov. and some pretty retarded stuff can wind up in state codes.

We probably need to all check our own states ... outta here, for a while :^)

No kidding, even though I'm law abiding (I think) except when driving. Then I'm a menace to society.

Scary stuff. Best,


8:26AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

I recevied this information from a book that I read for a paper in college. The book is written by Sean Connelly in 2006. In Montana for example you could get life in prison for selling X-if you are caught with more then one pill you could be charged in intent to supply.

8:18AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

OK; on the cost, I've got a guesstimate. FL spends just over $20 grand a year per inmate (that's probably low, since adding inmates means building more jails; the more we add the more the individual inmate cost goes north).

But let's use the 20K figure and guess the average age of an X-user is 20. Lastly, let's assume healthcare in our prisons is not as good as US healthcare in general (if you can imagine worse healthcare). Folks only live until, let's say, 75.

That's 55 years, times $20 grand, 1.1 million. Holy crap; that's just slightly less than the average lifetime earnings of a 4-year college grad (they're at 1.3 million, lifetime, average ... last time I checked)

Hopefully cops in those states are not math illiterate, and they take sanity into their own hands and just let the kids go.


8:03AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

That's shocking, and appauling. Which states, if you don't mind my asking? I don't do X, but I might avoid them on principle. Jesus! Are they nuts? What does it cost to jail someone for life? (How the parents of the X-using child feel, notwithstanding)

7:41AM PDT on Aug 6, 2009

Actually, in some states you can get life for possesion of more then one pill of X. So, maybe these naughty children need some help.

5:17PM PDT on Aug 5, 2009

You know, Shannon, this might be the most rational and compassionate thing anyone has said so far in this entire thread:

" I prefer to stick up for the Ravers popping X, they seem to have so much more fun on their drugs."

Isn't that really what drugs are? Just naughty kids trying to have some fun? Have we fogotten that; is our WOD out-of-control; has TV and popular culture distorted reality and had dire consequnces for our sociiety and especially the black community?

I think so, and am especially glad that people like Professor Pieklo are taeching at a college level and working in our legal profession. Kodos madam.

Truly, it's just being naughty, unless it gets to an excess level. Then it's an addiction, and people need help, not punishment (only).

Consider the US DOJ stat I posted below: on June 30, 2006 (or thereabouts), nearly 5 out of every 100 black males were in prison ... that's probably fairly typical. My god! What is that doing to those communities???

Is it helping to create a better society in America?

What are we creating? And what what will the America that our children inherit be like?

Now you know my fears.



4:23PM PDT on Aug 5, 2009

Cool, Shannon. Indeed, peace out.

Jim Dan D
(LOL; I'm likin' it; it might be my new pseudonym)

4:11PM PDT on Aug 5, 2009

I know Jim, you are sooo much better then everyone eles in your desire to make sure that things are fair for criminals. Thank god for people like you and your "moral fortitude". Crack Heads the world over praise your name. I prefer to stick up for the Ravers popping X, they seem to have so much more fun on their drugs. Peace Out.

4:00PM PDT on Aug 5, 2009

Ya know Shannon, statements like this are absolutely disgusting, in the morality to which I subscribe:

"But dont worry, pretty soon the red neck tweekers and meth heads will counter balance the minorty population in jail but I doubt that anyone will be fighting for them to get help. "

I'm just not ready to think of my fellow human being as quite that disposable, not even you (but you're testing my moral fortitude. whew.)


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