Mandatory minimum sentences crack-up welcome

Congress narrows gap in cocaine sentencing rules

This former criminal defense trial lawyer saw a lot of lives ruined by crack and cocaine, but we also saw many lives ruined by long mandatory minimum sentences for possessions of small to medium amounts of crack.

Most of those latter lives ruined were those of black men, but I do not believe that the disparately lesser sentences for powder cocaine were motivated by racism.

The fact is that crack cocaine does more harm, more quickly, to more people, in smaller doses, than does powder cocaine.

Nevertheless, we welcome the best news we have heard from this Congress since its 2009 ObamaDem inception:

Congress approved a landmark change Wednesday to the mandatory sentences for cocaine possession that detractors have long alleged had racist effects.

The old law, passed in 1986, meant that a person in possession of crack cocaine would get the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times as much of the powder form of the drug. The criticism: Those arrested for crack cocaine possession are far more likely to be black than those arrested for powder cocaine.

The new provision, passed by the House in a voice vote Wednesday, reduces that ratio to 18-to-1. It also repeals a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time possession of crack, making it the first time Congress has eliminated a mandatory minimum sentence since the Nixon administration, according to the Associated Press.

For many years, DeVine Law Factory opposed drug legalization and decriminalization. Now we lean toward same, for many of the same reasons did William F. Buckley and do many tea partiers and libertarians.

But we always opposed draconian mandatory minimum sentences that ruined the lives of so many young black men, many of whom would have been deterred from a life of crime by a reasonable sentence. Instead, they were sent to penitentiary crime school.

We thank the Democratic Party Congress for this change in the law.

[Cross-posted at 73Wire Law Factory]

Mike DeVine

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

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