Friday, November 2, 2007

a small step in the right direction: 100-1 out

it's a classic problem. the 100-1 ratio in criminal justice is a clear example of our crime control policies and refers to the unfairness in the punishment crack cocaine vs. the real thing. possessing five grams of crack cocaine will get you a sentence of five years in prison, while it takes possessing 500 grams of powdered cocaine to trigger the same five year sentence. this illustrates stiff penalties, but also, from a conflict perspective, unfairness as it is a certain population that is most likely to be in possession on crack cocaine, and therefore punished harshly. possessing a small amount of cocaine, in contrast, carries a very small, if any, penalty.

but now that is over. the penalties for crack offenses have been dropped by two levels, making possession of crack and cocaine comparable. this applies to new offenders being sentenced. for now, those currently in prison for this refraction will not be reconsidered given the new law:
First, the Sentencing Commission must decide whether the reduction will be retroactive and apply to the 19,500 currently serving sentences for crack offenses. Its analysis of the issue ... includes the statistic that of the 19,500 inmates currently serving federal sentences for crack offenses, 86% are black, 8% are hispanic and 6% are white.

In other words, blacks serve far longer sentences than whites for a comparable offense regarding substances that are chemically identical. With 19,500 inmates still in prison serving these disparate sentences, retroactivity is essential for fairness
this reminds me that i went to prison yesterday. perhaps i'll tell more later.

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