U.S. Sentencing Commission Urged by NAACP, Others to ‘Change the Double Standard’
By: Michael H. Cottman
[excerpted--click here for the full article]
Some federal judges and civil rights groups argue that penalties for crack cocaine charges disproportionately affect African-Americans, particularly black men who are incarcerated.
About 86 percent of inmates who could be impacted by the plan are black, and one black former law enforcement official said Wednesday the proposal is long overdue.
“We’ve been advocating for this kind of plan for years to change the double standard,” Elsie L. Scott, president and chief executive officer of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “There is a wide racial disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine, and this has been obvious to the African-American community.”
Ooookay Elsie. Time for your history lesson:
How did it come about that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses were passed in 1986?
“In 1986, the Democrats in Congress saw a political opportunity to outflank Republicans by “getting tough on drugs” after basketball star Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose. In the 1984 election the Republicans had successfully accused Democrats of being soft on crime. The most important Democratic political leader, House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill, was from Boston, MA. The Boston Celtics had signed Bias. During the July 4 congressional recess, O’Neill’s constituents were so consumed with anger and dismay about Bias’ death, O’Neill realized how powerful an anti-drug campaign would be.
O’Neill knew that for Democrats to take credit for an anti-drug program in November elections, the bill had to get out of both Houses of Congress by early October. That required action on the House floor by early September, which meant that committees had to finish their work before the August recess. Since the idea was born in early July, the law-writing committees had less than a month to develop the ideas, to write the bills to carry out those ideas, and to get comments from the relevant government agencies and the public at large.
One idea was considered for the first time by the House Judiciary Committee four days before the recess began. It had tremendous political appeal as “tough on drugs.” This was the creation of mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases. It was a type of penalty that had been removed from federal law in 1970 after extensive and careful consideration. But in 1986, no hearings were held on this idea. No experts on the relevant issues, no judges, no one from the Bureau of Prisons, or from any other office in the government, provided advice on the idea before it was rushed through the committee and into law. Only a few comments were received on an informal basis. After bouncing back and forth between the Democratic controlled House and the Republican controlled Senate as each party jockeyed for poitical advantage, The Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986 finally passed both houses a few weeks before the November elections.” (source)
Lesson 2: WHO PRESSED FOR THIS “DOUBLE STANDARD”?
“…liberals are also right that blacks are far more likely than whites to use and sell crack instead of powder cocaine. But they go badly wrong on two key counts. First, they feed the conspiratorial myth that federal anti-crack penalties were born of a white conspiracy led by right-wing Republicans. Go check the Congressional Record: in 1986, when the federal crack law was debated, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) supported it, and some CBC members pressed for even harsher penalties. A few years earlier it was CBC members and other Democrats in Congress who pushed President Reagan, against his considered judgment, to create the Office of National Drug Control Policy (better known as the drug czar’s office). And it was President Clinton who recently refused in no uncertain terms to change the federal penalty structure for drug crimes.” (more…)
The CBC wanted this policy so bad they pushed Reagan for it. When they saw that it impacted Blacks more than Whites, then they labeled the whole thing as ‘unfair’.
I know I’ve said it before on this site, but I felt that the two different sentences for the same freakin’ drug was dumb idea.