Crack-to-Powder Equitable Sentencing Act: A Victory for Justice?
3 August, 2010 | TDX
by Cyril Grossé
On August 3, 2010, the Huffington Post reported the passing of H.R. 2178, the “Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2009.” This act has been touted as being a meaningful measure towards addressing the historically racist laws concerning the criminal penalties for crack and powder cocaine possession. However, this measure may not have the positive effect on race matters that is represented.
Historically, there has been a gross disparity in punishment between those caught and convicted of possession of crack cocaine – usually Blacks – and those caught and convicted of possession of the powdered form – usually Whites – of the illicit drug.
The penalty associated with the crack form carried stiff sentences of up to 10 years in prison for just 5 grams of the substance whereas only probation would be handed down in the case of up to 500 grams powdered cocaine.
Heralded as an act to end the racial disparity, organizations such as the NAACP and others who have lobbied to end the disparity have convinced the legislature to pass the Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2009 which alters the ratio from 100:1 to about 18:1.
However, this improvement does nothing to address the numbers of Blacks who are sentenced to unreasonably long prison terms for non-violent crimes. There will be no reduction in the mounting numbers of young Black men currently wasting their lives away at the alarming rate of 1 for every 20 over the age of 18.
Though many will see this as a step in the right direction towards racial equality, I would ask that you step back and reexamine what it is that you want? Which is preferable? Equal or Fair?
This act only serves to insure that even more Americans are needlessly sentenced to serve time in our already-crowded prison systems. Adjusting ratios while doing nothing to address the underlying broken methodology of our criminal justice system serves not to promote equal justice, but to simply ensure we all get equal injustice.