Monday, March 12, 2007
From USATODAY.com: Momentum is building in Congress to ease crack cocaine sentencing guidelines, which the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics say have filled prisons with low-level drug dealers and addicts whose punishments were much worse than their crimes.
Federal prison sentences for possessing or selling crack have far exceeded those for powder cocaine for two decades. House Crime Subcommittee chairman Robert Scott, D-Va., a longtime critic of such sentencing policies, plans to hold hearings on crack sentences this year. In the Senate, Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama is drawing bipartisan support for his proposal to ease crack sentences.
"I believe that as a matter of law enforcement and good public policy that crack cocaine sentences are too heavy and can't be justified," Sessions says. "People don't want us to be soft on crime, but I think we ought to make the law more rational."
The mandatory federal sentencing guidelines passed by Congress in 1986 require a judge to impose the same sentence for possession of 5 grams of crack as for 500 grams of powder cocaine: five years in prison.
Congress passed the sentencing laws just after the fatal crack overdose of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias on June 19, 1986, and as crack was emerging in urban areas, says Alfred Blumstein, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who researches crime. Crack cocaine was associated with violent, open-air drug markets, he says.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]