Patt Morrison for July 29, 2010

Mandatory minimums on crack cocaine to be shortened

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Patrice Coppee/AFP/Getty Images

Congress passed a bill that would reduce the disparities between mandatory minimum sentences for crack and powdered cocaine violations

One of the most criticized laws in America is about to get reformed. Congress passed a bill Wednesday that would reduce the disparities between mandatory minimum sentences for crack and powdered cocaine violations, a law some have considered blatantly racist and unfairly harsh punishments imposed, mainly on blacks. Even the Obama administration has called the disparity “fundamentally unfair,” and who could argue with that? The law, which was adopted in 1986, states that someone convicted of possession of 5 grams of crack must be sentenced to 5 years in prison, compared to powdered cocaine, the amount for those mandatory sentences are as 100 times as high. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the new law the federal prison system would save about $42 million over the next five years. So if this is a positive financially and in terms of race relations, why would anyone be against it?

Guests:

Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs, also the author of Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results, and has recently completed When Brute Force Fails

Eddie Glaude, professor of religion & African American Studies at Princeton University


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