Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crack sentencing revisited

By Libby

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there's been some long overdue overhauling of sentencing guidelines.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets guidelines for federal prison sentences, established more lenient guidelines this spring for future crack cocaine offenders. The panel is scheduled to consider today a proposal to make the new guidelines retroactive.

That's a bit of misrepresentation. They didn't so much establish more lenient sentencing as they eliminated the ridiculous disparity between the sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine. But let's not quibble about success. It was an important first step and making the revised guidelines retroactive would be another huge leap in the right direction. The decision would affect some 19,500 inmates which would free up much needed prison space for dangerous criminals.

Regular readers know that I'm an advocate for legalization of all drugs and a complete change of policy that would treat drug abuse as a public health problem. But that's a long range goal and in the short term, eliminating the sentencing disparity on crack will go a long way towards restoring some common sense to our treatment of drug offenders. For more on the current senseless disparity in crack sentencing, via Ezra, check out the details for yourself.

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