ACLU Calls Inflated Crack Cocaine Penalties Unjust
The American Civil Liberties Union urged Congress Monday to reevaluate sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, saying that inflated penalties for the possession of crack are unjust.
“What we are talking about here is a modest step. Crack cocaine is still going to be illegal after this disparity is reduced, people who commit drug crime using guns will still be punished harshly,” Former Department of Justice attorney Paul Butler said during a briefing on Capitol Hill. “What we are asking is for the law to get rid of this unfairness. It will go a long way in restoring confidence in American criminal justice, people will respect the criminal justice system more because the criminal justice system will be more respectable.”
According to the ACLU he current minimum mandatory sentence for a first-time possession of crack cocaine is five years in prison without parole, which differs from other drug penalties where the penalty for a first-time offense is a misdemeanor requiring no prison time. This was implemented two decades ago when crack cocaine was thought to be more dangerous than other drugs and responsible for increased drug-related violence.
“The sentence for any crime should reflect the magnitude of the harm that is done, it should be proportionate to it,” Vice president of Prison Fellowship Pat Nolan said.
According to the ACLU, there is currently a 100:1 quantity ratio, meaning it takes 100 times the quantity of powder cocaine to receive the same mandatory sentencing imposed for crack cocaine offenses. The Sentencing Committee has recommend to Congress that the quantity ratio between crack cocaine and powder cocaine be changed to 1:1 or at least a 20:1 quantity ratio.
Congress has not adopted this proposal.
By Leah Valencia, The University of New Mexico- Talk Radio News Service