Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Discretion in
I've got great news to report. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that judges can ignore unjust sentencing guidelines that recommend sentences for crack cocaine offenses that are harsher than those for powder cocaine offenses. This ruling doesn’t change the draconian mandatory minimums that are the main source of the problem, but it gives judges greater discretion to show mercy to nonviolent drug law offenders.
Back in August I told you we were reaching a tipping point in the campaign to eliminate the 100 to 1 crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. That disparity is costing taxpayers billions of dollars and creating enormous racial inequities in our criminal justice system. It is also making our streets less safe by encouraging federal law enforcement agencies to target low-level drug offenders instead of violent drug traffickers and organized crime. With your help we can make Congress change these unjust laws.
Send a message to your legislators.
More reform could happen tomorrow. The U.S. Sentencing Commission partially reduced recommended sentences for crack cocaine offenses earlier this year. The Commission is expected to vote tomorrow on whether or not to apply these sentencing reductions retroactively. Doing so could save taxpayers a billion dollars and make 19,500 federal prisoners eligible for early release over the next several decades.
Ultimately, only Congress can completely eliminate the crack/powder disparity. Four reform bills have been introduced in Congress (two by Democrats and two by Republicans). The U.S. Senate is expected to have hearings on the legislation in February. Unfortunately, no hearings on this issue have been scheduled in the House, and the House reform bill, Rep. Rangel’s (D-NY) Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2007 (H.R. 460), has stalled.
You can help reverse the injustice of the crack/powder sentencing disparity by sending a message to your members of Congress.
You can get more background on the issue here.
Drug Policy Alliance Network