The Failed War on Drugs: Federal Sentencing Guidelines

One of the most complained about aspects of the "War on Drugs" by those who oppose the war and it's methods are the racist Federal Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine convictions and powder cocaine convictions. The problem with the guidelines is the disparity between the sentences for the two crimes. Convictions for crack cocaine carry much longer prison sentences than those for powder cocaine relative to the amount of cocaine in question. For example,

Trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence, but it takes 500 grams of cocaine powder to warrant the same sentence. link

The reason for these guidlines was, supposedly, to reduce violent crime stemming from the use of crack cocaine.

A case that went before the Supreme Court today addresses the issue of whether or not Federal Judges have to strictly follow the sentencing guidelines. In the specific case argued before the Court today, Kimbrough v. United States, a Federal Judge had sentenced a convicted crack and powder cocaine dealer to 15 years in prison instead of the mandated 19-22 years imposed by the guidelines. The sentence was appealed and the case was remanded by an appeals court for a new sentencing. That order was then appealed and is now before the Supreme Court.

The net result of the sentencing guideline's unequal treatment of crack and powder cocaine dealers is that more black men end up serving more time in prison. Someone selling a small amount of crack cocaine faces much more prison time than someone selling small amounts of powder cocaine.

1 comment:

Jessie Lucia said...

Way to go, Plastic! More people should know about this.