A couple of things.
First is the move by Congress changing the crack cocaine sentencing minimums. Before the change it was a mandatory five-year sentence for anyone convicted of possession of more than five grams of crack. For powder cocaine the amount is 500 grams. This was often refered to as the 1:100 law. Some have said the disparity in the sentencing is racially motivated. Black folks tend to gravitate toward crack where whites prefer the powder.
The change by Congress now makes the disparity 1:18. Powder cocaine sentencing remains the same but crack cocaine has gone to 28 grams (an ounce) to meet the mandatory minimum sentence. Hey, at least it’s a change.
The biggest deal about this (in my humble opinion) is that this is the first time Congress has taken any action on the ridicules minimum sentencing laws that were enacted back around 1970. A crack, indeed. Hopefully we’ll be seeing many more cracks appearing in this country’s drug laws.
And in that vein we have the Webb Commission. In March of last year Senator Webb (Virginia) proposed to Congress a commission be formed to review our criminal justice system. During his introduction of the proposal he mentioned that the U.S. population is only 5% of the world’s, yet we are housing 25% of those known to be incarcerated. He briefly touched on the disparity of the color of those locked down. He went on to state that though we’ve been locking people up right and left since the ’80s people queried still say they don’t feel safe in their communities. There is the number of people incarcerated for non-violent crimes,… etc. In his opinion something is broken. He would like to analyze the criminal justice system and make recommendations to our governing body.
If you’d care to see a 10 minute video of his presentation, here’s a link:
Congress has approve the Webb Commission. From the time the participants begin their work the commission will have 18 months to present their findings and recommendations. This is a step in the right direction. The gears turn slow but, as long as they are turning…
I look forward to reading the report.