Friday, March 12, 2010

Cocaine Disparity Only On-Fifth As Racist - Congrats Congress!

A backroom deal has been reached between the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate that does not completely eliminate the sentencing disparity between powder and rock cocaine.  Earlier today we reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would completely remove the sentencing disparity between rock and powder cocaine.  This afternoon, Senator Durbin announced that he has reached a "compromise" with Republican Jeff Sessions in which he agreed to accept a change to the bill that would replace the 100 to 1 disparity with a 20 to 1 disparity.  In return, Sessions agreed to withdraw his amendment to the bill that would have replaced the 5 year minimum for simple possession of crack with a 10 year minimum.  Session's amendment would have completely destroyed the bill.  In announcing the deal, Durbin stated that he believes in completely eliminating the disparity "but to get things done you have to be prepared to make mutual concessions."  So the 100 to 1 disparity is replaced by a 20 to 1 disparity.  Almost everyone agrees that the disparity between rock and powder cocaine, regardless of whether it is 100 to 1 or 20 to 1, is racist.  So while the old sentencing disparity was 100% racist, this new law will be one-fifth as racist as the old law.

This is another example of how broken our legislative process is.  This morning the entire Judiciary Committee agreed to completely eliminate the sentencing disparity.  A few hours later a backroom deal is struck in which the bill is reduced to a mockery.  While this new sentencing structure will be better than what we had before, why not do the right thing and completely fix the problem?  How could one racist Senator, or a group of racist Senators, be allowed to exert their will on the entire Senate?  When they try to do this, why not call them out for what they are and force them to explain themselves?  If we are a nation of laws, and we have a law that is blatantly racist, then what does that say about our country?

Please note that in 1986 Senator Sessions was nominated by President Reagan to serve as a Federal District Judge.  He became only the second nominee in 48 years for Federal District Judge to have his nomination killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee after evidence was introduced at his nomination hearing that indicated he had made racially insensitive comments while working at the U.S. Attorneys Office.

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John Ioakimidis said...

For the western world, God gave us 10 commandments and our legislatures have given us thousands of laws. Not every social problem has to have a criminal consequence. Possession of drug laws have made otherwise honest people into convicts.

It is clear that laws against drug possession have a disproportionate effect on Blacks and Hispanics. In any given morning in Cook County, the States' Attorney and her team of lawyers are busy prosecuting hundreds (mostly minorities) for drug possession. Most cases are less than a couple of grams of "whaterver." These folks, among the weakest in our society, are arrested, dragged into Court and threatened with jail for causing no harm to anyone. Maybe if they are lucky or can afford a good attorney, they will avoid jail and a permanent conviction. To add insult to injury, these folks in most cases cannot afford a private attorney.

The effect on families are devastating since getting a job after a possession charge or conviction is virtually impossible.

But society continues - building jails and passing laws that keep much of the lower class in permanent position.

. . .and then people complain when we have to raise taxes to house and feed these "hard core" criminals.

James G. Dimeas said...

Today, the Senate approved the measure. The disparity is now 18 to 1. Senator Durbin said he would have like to completely eliminate the disparity but is happy with the compromise. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the legislation for not going far enough. The House is expected to pass a similar measure and President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

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