Sentencing

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Breaking: House Subcommittee Votes to Reduce Crack Cocaine Penalties to Powder Cocaine Level

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), H.R. 3245
lead sponsor and long-time champion
for criminal justice reformThe House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security this afternoon unanimously approved H.R. 3245, the "Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009." According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums:
The bill would remove references to "cocaine base" from the US Code, effectively treating all cocaine, including crack, the same for sentencing purposes. Original cosponsors of the bill include all Democratic members of the subcommittee and the sponsors of all other Democratic bills that address the cocaine sentencing disparity.
Click here for the full press release. Exciting times -- as I noted a few minutes ago when writing about another good vote that took place in Congress yesterday, eliminating the loss of financial aid penalty that exists for students convicted of drug possession. That one was part of a larger, high-priority bill that that committee is now sending to the full House of Representatives. Whether this standalone bill, coming out of a subcommittee, will get to that level is less certain. However, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI), is an ardent supporter, and the bill passed the subcommittee unanimously, meaning the Republicans on the subcommittee must have voted for it too. (The roll call isn't online yet.) So it is very encouraging nonetheless.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Ecstacy and the war on empathy.

I recently read an article on the Sotomeyer Hearings, which discussed how "Republicans Question Need for Empathy". This led me to contemplate how our entire war on drugs is a war on empathy, particularly the drug policies started by the Nixon administration. These were of course part of an overall strategy against the counter culture which preached (among other things) increased empathy. The war on drugs was one of the earliest and longest lasting fronts in the culture war which has played such a large part of American politics in my life time. I think the rather disproportionate vilification of ecstacy is in no small part because of an anti-empathy attitude among fundamentalists. So I wrote a little article about it here. Perhaps some of you would enjoy reading it. I look forward to reading any comments.

I went to visit Will Foster in Jail A Couple of Nights Ago

I wrote about the Will Foster case in the Chronicle last week. Here's a brief summary: Foster had a small medical marijuana garden in Tulsa that was raided in 2005. Two years later, he was sentenced to an insane 93 YEARS in prison. Only after a publicity campaign in which DRCNet played a vital role was he resentenced to merely 20 years, and after being twice denied parole, he was paroled to California. Although Oklahoma thought Foster should be on parole until 2011, California decided he didn't need any more state supervision and released him from parole after three years. That wasn't punitive enough for Oklahoma. Although Foster had left the Bible Belt state behind with no intention of ever returning, Oklahoma parole officials issued a parole violation warrant for his extradition to serve out the remainder of his sentence. When Foster had to show ID in a police encounter, the warrant popped up, and he was jailed. Desperate, Foster filed a writ of habeas corpus and won! A California judge ruled the warrant invalid, and Foster was a free man again. But not for long. It's thirst for vengeance still unslaked, the state of Oklahoma issued yet another parole violation warrant for Foster's extradition because he refused to agree to an extension of his parole to 2015--four years past the original Oklahoma parole date. Then he got raided in California, thanks to bad information from an informant with an axe to grind. Foster had a legal medical marijuana grow, but it took a hard-headed Sonoma County prosecutor more than a year to drop charges, and Foster has been jailed the whole time. Now that the charges have been dropped, Foster still isn't free because Oklahoma still wants him back. Extradition warrants have been signed by the governors of both states, and he was days away from being extradited in shackles when he filed a new habeas writ this week. Filing the writ will stop him from being sent back to Oklahoma, but it also means he's stuck in jail for the foreseeable future. The writ is a legal strategy; his real best hope is to get one of those governors to rescind the extradition order. You can help. Click on this link to find out how to write the governors. I think a campaign of letters to the editor of Oklahoma papers might help, too. Those letters might ask why Oklahoma wants to continue to spend valuable tax dollars to persecute a harmless man whose only crime was to try to get some relief for his ailments--and who has no intention of ever returning there. ...So, anyway, I went to see Will at the Sonoma County Jail Saturday night. But I didn't get in. The steel-toes in my footwear set off the metal detector, and I quickly found out such apparel was a security risk. Who knew? I'll go back later this week. I guess I'll wear sandals. In the meantime, there are letters waiting to be written. Keyboard commandos, saddle up!

Sentencing: Attorney General Calls for Elimination of Crack-Powder Cocaine Disparity

US Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the gap in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses must go. Holder's remarks came as he addressed a legal discussion sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus.

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Eric Holder
Under federal sentencing laws in place since the mid-1980s, five grams of crack cocaine earns a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, but it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same sentence. This 100-to-1 disparity has hit black defendants the hardest. According to US government figures, 82% of federal crack offenders are black and only 9% white.

Pressure has been building for the past decade to reform those laws and reduce or eliminate that disparity. The notion has broad support even in Congress, but faces a perilous path among competing bills and competing notions about how the disparity should be addressed -- eliminate it completely, lower the ratio, or even increase powder penalties -- and how broadly the entire federal sentencing structure needs to be reformed.

Holder made it clear where the administration stands. "One thing is very clear: We must review our federal cocaine sentencing policy. This administration firmly believes that the disparity in crack and powdered cocaine sentences is unwarranted," Holder said. "It must be eliminated."

That's a stark contrast with the Bush administration, which fought hard to maintain the current cocaine sentencing structure despite opposition from the US Sentencing Commission, drug and criminal justice system reform advocates, an increasing number of prosecutors and judges, and an increasing number of legislators.

Feature: American Nightmare -- Will Foster and Justice, Oklahoma Style

Will Foster became a poster child for the mindless cruelties of the drug war more than a decade ago. The Tulsa computer consultant and medical marijuana user -- he suffers from degenerative arthritis -- was raided by police with a warrant for a methamphetamine lab back in 1995. Police found no meth, but they did find a small marijuana garden. The unfortunate Foster was convicted of cultivation and sentenced in 2007 to a mind-blowing 93 years in prison.

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Will Foster (medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com)
It took a growing national movement and, ultimately, an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to get that sentence redressed. After the state high court threw out his sentence, Foster was resentenced to 20 years, twice denied parole, then finally paroled to the more medical marijuana-friendly state of California, where he moved in temporarily with "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal, who had testified in his defense in Oklahoma and then befriended him.

And they all lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Although Foster settled into a law-abiding life in Northern California, picking up a new family along the way, and successfully completed what the state of California considered an adequate parole period, that wasn't good enough for the state of Oklahoma. Upset that California officials hadn't kept him on parole as long as they would have, Oklahoma parole officials demanded that he return to that benighted state to finish his parole and when he, perhaps understandably, declined, issued a warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

Nothing came of that until Foster had his ID checked in a police encounter, but then, the pending Oklahoma warrant popped up, and Foster was jailed in California to be returned to Oklahoma to finish the rest of his sentence. With nothing to lose, Foster fought the warrant by filing a writ of habeas corpus and winning its dismissal in the California courts in 2006.

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Susie Mueller and family
Once again, Foster was a free man, but Oklahoma still wasn't done with him. Oklahoma parole officials then offered to reinstate him in the interstate compact, which governs the supervision of parolees who parole to states other than the one in which they were sentenced, but then added that they had made a mistake when originally calculating the length of his parole period. His parole didn't end in 2011, but in 2015, they said, demanding he sign a document to that effect. Again, perhaps understandably, Foster declined that offer, and again, the state of Oklahoma issued another warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

By then, Foster had moved to Santa Rosa, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and was in a relationship with and supporting a local woman, Susie Mueller, and her three daughters. At Foster's residence, he had a medical marijuana grow, all completely legal under state law and county guidelines. But he also had a personal enemy, Mueller's estranged husband, who told law enforcement officials he was operating a major marijuana grow operation.

The next thing Foster and Mueller knew, DEA agents and Sonoma County sheriff's deputies were kicking down Foster's door, the couple was arrested on state marijuana cultivation charges, and Mueller's youngest daughter was taken into custody as an endangered child.

"It was terrible," said Mueller. "They did a full-on raid and arrested him over seven mature plants, and they arrested me and took my daughter away. They thought because he knew Ed there was something big going on. They said if I told them where the other grows were, they wouldn't arrest me and take my daughter. I told them that's all there was and that he was within the guidelines, and they said 'take her kid,' and they arrested me."

A hard-nosed Sonoma County prosecutor delayed months before dropping the baseless charges, and Foster sat in the Sonoma County Jail the whole time. But even after the charges were dropped, Foster remains behind bars, fighting the extradition warrant back to Oklahoma. It's now going on 16 months of imprisonment for him.

"In their warrant, they said I violated the terms and conditions of parole in Oklahoma, then fled Oklahoma to escape justice," Foster said Wednesday in a phone call from the jail. "But I haven't been back in Oklahoma since I left in 2001. I successfully finished parole here, I beat back that earlier extradition effort, and they're still coming after me."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger routinely signed off on the Oklahoma warrant without knowing all the facts, Foster said. "The governor has not been given all the information. Oklahoma didn't tell him I had finished parole, had an earlier extradition attempt thrown out, or that they had tried to extend my parole six years after the fact," he pointed out.

Neither the California nor the Oklahoma governors' offices nor Oklahoma parole officials responded to Chronicle inquiries about the Foster case.

Now, with his options running out, Foster and his supporters are pursuing two strategies, one political and one judicial. The first is aimed at the two governors, urging them to revoke the warrants. The second is to file another writ of habeas corpus, which Foster said he would do at the end of this month. Otherwise, he will be taken back to Oklahoma in shackles before July is over.

"I am asking the governor of Oklahoma to recall the warrant and commute my sentence and let me live in peace in California and just leave me alone," he said. "I'm asking Gov. Schwarzenegger to not honor the extradition request. There is case law suggesting that he does not have to grant extradition; he can deny it and recall his warrant."

Ed Rosenthal is leading the campaign to free Foster. On his blog is complete information about how to contact the two governors to ask them to recall the warrants.

"Every human being whose life is disrupted because of the marijuana laws deserves our attention, but Will's case is important first because people already know about the terrible injustice done to him back in Oklahoma, and second because it's just so weird and egregious," said Rosenthal. "People just shake their heads and say this shouldn't be happening. We're trying to get him out, and we're trying to bring this injustice to the attention of people who don't already know about it," he said.

"Apparently, Oklahoma has a lot of money to burn on this vindictiveness," he noted. "This is a sad and stupid case."

It's costing cash-strapped California, too. The cost for imprisoning Foster for the past 15 months is now in excess of $100,000, and that doesn't include the cost of the bogus marijuana cultivation prosecution.

"I'll be filing a habeas writ on June 29," Foster said, "and the state will have 15 days to respond. There will probably be a hearing in 30 days."

It's unusual for habeas writs to be granted, and Foster is uncertain about his prospects for victory, but is prepared for the long haul. "If I don't win there, I can drag this out for years. I could go all the way to the California Supreme Court, and then into the federal courts. But that would require that I continue to sit here in jail," he said.

Susie Mueller visits Foster in jail almost every day. "This is heartbreaking for me, it's very emotionally difficult because he shouldn't be in there," she said. "But I'm really devoted to him. I go almost every night, and we talk for an hour and play tic-tic-toe and go over the case."

In one of the strange ironies of Foster's ordeal, Mueller said she had gathered signatures for petitions seeking his release when he was imprisoned in Oklahoma a decade ago. "I met him at work here in Santa Rosa and didn't even realize he was that Will Foster," she laughed. "What a coincidence."

"Ed and Susie are the best advocates a guy could have," said Foster. "I'm so grateful for all they're doing."

For Foster, Oklahoma's efforts to punish him further are not about justice, but vengeance. "I beat them on the sentencing, I beat them on the first extradition warrant, and they want to teach me a lesson," he said. "They want to impose their authority."

Right now, the decision to extradite Foster back to Oklahoma is up to the two governors and their extradition specialists. An outpouring of public support in favor of allowing Foster to remain in California as a free man could make the difference.

Feature: Ending the Death Penalty for Drug Offenses -- Now Is the Time, Say Human Rights, Harm Reduction Groups

In April, two Thai citizens, Sureeya Wuttisat, 45, and Asan Tong, 47, were sentenced to death in Malaysia after being convicted of trafficking about 40 pounds of marijuana. The sentence may be an outrage, but it is not a fluke. At least 16 countries in Asia apply the death penalty for some drug offenses, and an equal number in the rest of the world, including the United States, do, too.

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Death sentence is passed against a woman who was immediately executed with three other people on drugs charges. (UN International Anti-Drugs Day, 6/26/03) sina.com.cn via Amnesty International web site)
Today is the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and in recent years, China has taken to marking it by executing drug offenders. This year, China got off to an early start, killing six people for drug offenses yesterday. Last year, Indonesia joined China in the gruesome festivities, as it, too, put drug offenders to death.

This year, a consortium of human rights and harm reduction organizations are using UN anti-drug day to challenge the resort to the death penalty for drug offenses. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Harm Reduction Association, and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) have joined together to call on Asian governments to end the death penalty for drug offenses.

The groups say they do not know how many people are sentenced to death or executed because many countries in the region do not make available information on the death penalty. But a perusal of the archives of the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain shows that so far this year, a minimum of 69 people have been executed for drug offenses and 14 more sentenced to death.

If these publicly available accounts accurately reflect who is being sentenced to death or executed and where, Iran is by far the leading drug war executioner. (Reports from China, the other likely drug execution leader, are rare.) So far this year, Iran has executed at least 59 people for drug offenses, with China reporting eight, and Saudi Arabia two. During this same period, seven people have been sentenced to death for drug offenses in Malaysia, six in China, and one in Vietnam.

The executions and death sentences come even as the world moves toward restricting or abolishing the death penalty. Last year, only 25 countries carried out executions. And they come despite any evidence that they have any impact on drug trafficking or consumption. As the UN itself noted in 1988, 1996, and 2002, "research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis."

Countries using the death penalty for drug offenses are also violating UN human rights standards. The UN holds that the death penalty should be imposed only as an "exceptional measure" for "the most serious crimes" where "there was an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life."

Building on a campaign to end the death penalty for drug offenses by the IHRA's HR2 (harm reduction and human rights), ADPAN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the IHRA are using UN anti-drug day to appeal to Asian governments to:

  • Introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to the abolition of the death penalty in line with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 and 63/168 on "moratorium on the use of the death penalty";
  • Commute all death sentences, including for drug offenses;
  • Remove provisions within their domestic legislation that allow for the death penalty for drug offenses;
  • Abolish the use of mandatory sentencing in capital cases;
  • Publicize statistics on the death penalty and facts around the administration of justice in death penalty cases; and
  • Use the occasion of Anti-Drugs Day 2009 to highlight public health policies that have proven effective in reducing drug-related harms.

"The problem with the death penalty for drug offenses is that it plainly violates international law," said Human Rights Watch's Rebecca Schleifer. "The UN rapporteur has made it clear that the death penalty for drug offenses violates international human rights law."

In many countries with the death penalty for drug offenses, Schleifer noted, judicial processes are faulty and due process is lacking. In some of them, including Malaysia and Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory in some drug cases, again a violation of international standards for fair trials.

Not only does the death penalty for drug offenses not deter potential offenders, it works against reducing the harms of drug use, Schleifer said. "Our work has found time and time again that excessive punishments and repressive drug law enforcement actually drive people away from life-saving health services," she observed.

"The movement against the death penalty is one that has been long fought and one that is clearly moving in the direction of international abolition," said IHRA's Rick Lines, the author of a 2007 IHRA report on the death penalty for drug offenses. "Yet for many years, the specific issue of the death penalty for drugs has been largely invisible, both within the drug reform movement and the anti-death penalty movement. But now we are seeing a shift in that, with many more people and organizations speaking out, not only on the basis that the death penalty for drugs violate international law, but also that it epitomizes an enforcement-centered approach to drug policy that is a failure in every respect."

Today's joint statement is significant, said Lines, because it brings together major international human rights and harm reduction organizations. "This shows the potential of the death penalty issue to build bridges and working relationships between these two important movements," he said. "That will only enhance the prospects for policy and legislative change. Clearly, no government is likely to change policy before people start making those demands. We now hear those demands becoming louder and more focused."

"Government attitudes do change," said ADPAN's Andrew de Cruz, citing the abolition of the death penalty in Burundi and Togo in the last few weeks, Vietnam's reduction in the number of death penalty offenses, and changes in death penalty practices in China. He might well have also cited Iran, which despite its high number of drug executions, has hinted that it wants to reduce executions overall.

"For these changes to continue it is important to ensure we convey the messages that the death penalty violates human rights and that it does not help deter crime," de Cruz said. "When it comes to drug offences, we can make further arguments that the death penalty for drug offenses is illegal under international human rights law, and that it has actually been counterproductive to policies known to help prevent some of the harmful health consequences of drugs to individuals and societies."

Applying pressure to individual countries is only part of the campaign, said Schleifer. "We would like all of the UN human rights agencies as well as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to speak out definitively against the use of the death penalty as a violation of international law," she said. "Last year, UNODC came close when it talked about asking states to reconsider the use of the death penalty for drug offenses, but we would like to see them step up and recognize what international law says."

Last year, the UN General Assembly issued a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, Schleifer noted. "We would like to see the UN repeat that," she said. "Not just the General Assembly, but also UNODC joining publicly."

The campaign against the death penalty for drug offenses is well underway, but it still has a long way to go. If you are reading these words on UN anti-drug day, you know that the ritual state murders to mark it have already begun.

Marijuana: US Congressman Mark Kirk Introduces Bill Targeting "Kush Super-Marijuana"

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) Monday introduced a bill that would dramatically increase prison sentences for marijuana trafficking offenses if the pot in question had THC levels over 15%. Warning Monday that "kush super-marijuana" had invaded the Chicago suburbs, Kirk is calling for prison sentences of up to 25 years for trafficking even small quantities of the kind bud.

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Mark Kirk
Under current federal law, the manufacture, distribution, import and export, and possession with intent to distribute fewer than 50 kilograms or 50 plants is punishable by up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 individual fine and $1 million group fine. Kirk's bill, the High-Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act (HR 2828) increases the maximum fines for high-potency pot to $1 million for an individual and $5 million for a group, as well as increasing the maximum prison sentence five-fold. A second offense would double the fines and increase the maximum sentence to 35 years.

In a press release announcing the bill, Kirk warned of "zombie-like" pot smokers stumbling around the Chicago suburbs. "According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 25 million individuals age 12 and older used marijuana in 2007 -- significantly more than any other drug," he said. "That's why Kush and other high-potency marijuana strains are so worrying. Local law enforcement reports that Kush users are 'zombie-like' because of the extreme THC levels. Drug dealers know they can make as much money selling Kush as cocaine but without the heavier sentences that accompany crack and cocaine trafficking. Higher fines and longer sentences aren't the total solution to our nation's drug problem. But our laws should keep pace with advances in the strength and cash-value of high-THC marijuana. If you can make as much money selling pot as cocaine, you should face the same penalties."

Rep. Kirk appears to have swallowed the assumption that higher-potency marijuana is somehow more harmful than lower-potency pot, an old bromide dating back to former drug czar John Walters' "it's not your father's marijuana." But marijuana users say they adjust dosages to achieve the desired effect by smoking smaller amounts of more potent varieties. A user might smoke an entire blunt of low-potency Mexican brick weed, but only a couple of tokes of more potent pot, just as an alcohol user might chug down a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor, but only a few ounces of more potent distilled spirits.

Further, kush is only one of a number of different strains of high-potency marijuana now available on the market. Many of those strains will produce potency levels of 15% or higher, much to the pleasure of marijuana connoisseurs.

"I don't know what's more ridiculous about this," said Bruce Mirken, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, "Kirk's incredible scientific ignorance or the hypocrisy of a man who's taken thousands of dollars from the alcohol and tobacco industries going after marijuana."

By Wednesday afternoon, Kirk's bill had yet to pick up any cosponsors.

Sentencing: Louisiana Bill to Allow Parole for Heroin Lifers Passes Full House, Senate Committee

From the 1970s until 2000, anyone caught possessing, distributing, or producing heroin in Louisiana was eligible for a prison sentence of life without parole. After the legislature changed the law, those penalties were reduced to five to 50 years in prison, with the possibility of parole, but that legislation did not deal with the remaining heroin lifers, who stay behind bars while people convicted since then do their time and go home.

Now, a bill that would redress that injustice has passed the Louisiana House, and on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it, too. The bill, HB 630, would allow heroin lifers to seek parole after they have served at least 15 years.

"It is a matter of basic fairness," Pete Adams, executive director of the District Attorneys Association, told the committee. The association supports the bill.

State Rep. Walt Leger III (D-New Orleans) said the average sentence for heroin offenses these days is five years. Keeping the heroin lifers in prison costs the state too much money, he added.

The legislature has killed similar proposals in recent years, including last year, when the House defeated it 44-48. This year it passed the House 57-29. Legislators had said the heroin lifers should seek review at the Louisiana Risk Review Panel, which reviews the cases of nonviolent offenders to assess how dangerous they would be if released.

But even if the panel recommends a reduction, only the governor has the power to commute sentences. Governors typically "are not into signing these things," testified Rep. Cedric Richmond.

CBC Hosts "Rethinking Federal Sentencing Policy" Symposium

The Congressional Black Caucus
 Community Re-Investment Taskforce and the
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
at Harvard Law School
invite you to attend

"Rethinking Federal Sentencing Policy"
25th Anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act
 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.
  U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Ways and Means
1100 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

 

Program

Welcome and Opening Remarks by
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
 Rep. Danny Davis (IL)
Rep. Charles Rangel (NY)
 
Welcome and Introduction of Attorney General by
Rep. John Conyers (MI)
 
Remarks by
Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
 
Introduction of Justice Breyer
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Executive Director, 
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice,
Harvard Law School
 
Hon. Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice
Supreme Court of the United States
 
Kate Stith, Acting Dean
Yale Law School
 
Mandatory Minimums
 
Panel One: Rep Maxine Waters (CA)
History of Mandatory Minimums
 
Nancy Gertner, Judge, U.S. District Court for the
District of Massachusetts
Hon. J. Spencer Letts, Judge, U.S. District Court,
Central District of California
Eric Sterling, President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
 
Panel Two: Rep. Bobby Scott (VA)
The Need for Repeal, Including Legislative Update
 
A.J. Kramer, Federal Defender, Federal Public Defender of the
District of Columbia
Julie Stewart, President, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project
Margaret Love, Former Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice
 
Disparity Between Crack and Powder Cocaine
 
Panel Three: Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX)
 
Hon. Reggie B. Walton, Judge, U.S. District Court for the
District of Columbia
Hon. William Sessions, Vice Chairman, U.S. Sentencing Commission
Bruce Nicholson, Legislative Counsel, American Bar Association
David Kirby, Former United States Attorney for the
District of Vermont
 
Good Time, Community Corrections and Reentry
 
 Panel Four: Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL)
Hon. Ann Aiken, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court of the
District of Oregon
Loretta S. Martin, Chief Probation Officer for the Central
District of California
Harley G. Lappin, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
            Jane Browning, Executive Director, International Community Corrections Association
Kristen Mamer, Director Public Affairs, FedCure
Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Chairman, U.S. Parole Commission (Invited)
 

Contact: Bernard Moore, PhD, Senior Policy Fellow
Office of Congressman Danny K. Davis
202-360-7551
[email protected]

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Video: Crack Sentencing Reform Petition Delivered to Congress -- Former Prisoners, Family Members and Advocates Speak Out

Last month the "Crack the Disparity" Coalition delivered petitions signed by tens of thousands of people, calling for an end to the draconian US crack sentencing laws, to the offices of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Pat Leahy (D-VT), respective chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. This short video on ColorOfChange.org shows one of the deliveries, and features comments from Karen Garrison, whose two sons were unjustly caught up in these laws; and from Nkechi Taifa, who heads up justice reform efforts at the Open Society Policy Center. The ColorOfChange.org page devoted to this petition also features audio from the press conference, including former Major League baseball star Willie Mays Aikens, who served 14 years in federal prison after an untreated cocaine addiction drew him into the federal system with crack charges.

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