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Washington Post Story on Crack Sentencing Bill

Submitted by David Borden on
Carrie Johnson at the Washington Post has written a nice story on the Durbin bill to reduce federal crack cocaine penalties to the level of powder cocaine penalties. It quotes my colleagues Jasmine Tyler of Drug Policy Alliance (known inside the Beltway as "Jazz") and Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the sentencing reform group that has led the fight to end mandatory minimums since the early '90s. I have a minor nitpick with the article, which is that it presents the issue as having civil rights and justice reform advocates and some politicos on one side, with law enforcement on the other, quoting a spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police saying that in the past their members have favored raising powder cocaine penalties instead. While the article doesn't say that all law enforcement is against reducing the penalties, it does fail to mention that there is also law enforcement support for lowering penalties. The press release from Sen. Durbin announcing the bill cites Los Angeles police chief William Bratton, Miami police chief John Timoney, and the National Black Police Association. I also have to comment on some of the comments I saw by Post readers. Most of the commenters were in support of reducing penalties as the bill does. But a few characterized it as "stupid," saying it would allow people to go on selling crack in inner city black communities, and thereby hurting those communities. As usual, it's the people throwing around words like "stupid" who've done the least thinking about the issue. If they had in fact stopped to think, they would realize that: 1) possession sentences are getting adjusted by this bill, helping people now going to prison for years for just for possessing tiny quantities of crack; and that: (2) incarcerating a drug dealer just creates a job opportunity for another dealer. Often the new would-be dealers fight it out over the old dealer's turf, hurting the community much much more.

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