The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity between the amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine needed to trigger certain United States federal criminal penalties from a 100:1 ratio to an 18:1 ratio and eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine, among other provisions. This disparity was a product of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which was enacted after crack cocaine gained popularity in the 1980s and was accompanied by escalated instances of violence. In the intervening two and a half decades, studies showed that the differences between the effects of powder and crack cocaine were exaggerated, and that a hugely disproportionate number of African Americans were being prosecuted and sentenced under the harsh laws.
The Fair Sentencing Act has improved the disparity, though it is not perfect. Supporters have called for a 1:1 ratio (as opposed to the current 18:1), and have requested that the law be retroactive.
Today, President Obama has commuted the sentences of eight convicts who were sentenced under the old, harsh laws. Most of these men and women should be released from prison within 120 days, as opposed to the life sentences some of them received for non-violent, simple possession of crack cocaine. This decision will save taxpayers millions of dollars for the reduced number of years of incarcerating these individuals. It also attempts to right a wrong in our justice system.
You can read the New York Times article here.
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