Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sentencing Disparity Between Crack and Powder Still Exists in Most States

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University  - Scholarship in Action 

Years ago when the federal government produced disparities in sentencing of crack vs. powder cocaine, many states followed suit. As a result, the black community was devastated with Draconian prison sentences, in which individuals with barely enough crack to weigh were given dozens of years in prison.
The federal government finally came to its senses and changed the law, making it marginally more equitable than it was before. The problem is that many states have not yet made the same change.
The arguments used to justify longer sentences are that the crack trade creates more crime and that the drug is more addictive than powder. Also, the tougher sentences were imposed in 1986, when basketball star Len Bias died from an overdose. It was originally reported that Bias had smoked crack, but a teammate later testified that Bias had snorted powder cocaine instead.

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