As of yesterday, the federal sentencing guidelines regarding crack cocaine charges have been changed. Now, after much debate and deliberation among lawyers, policymakers, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the guidelines are more lenient, a welcome change since the old sentencing guidelines treated crack cocaine violations much more severely than powder cocaine violations. Critics of the judicial system have pointed out that since crack is cheaper than powder cocaine, the more severe penalties for crack resulted in discrimination against poor users and that this discrimination often took on a racial dimension. According to an article published in the New York Times, the new sentencing guidelines will reduce the average crack cocaine sentence from 10 years and one month to 8 years and ten months, a fairly small but significant difference that the Sentencing Commission predicts will help alleviate overcrowding in our prisons. Now, the Sentencing Commission will decide whether these new guidelines can apply retroactively or not.
In the Times article, the Department of Justice says that it is opposed to applying the new guidelines retroactively. But the American Bar Association is in obvious favor of doing so. If the guidelines are made retroactive, crack cocaine offenders could apply to the courts that sentenced them to have their sentences reduced. Regardless of the final decision, the Sentencing Commission has moved forward and effectively advanced our country’s sentencing guidelines into the 21st century.
And On the Other Side of the World...
Finally, since it’s Friday, I wanted to share another story that I saw in the news recently. Check out this New York Times article about a quirky new crime prevention strategy that is emerging in Japan. I don’t really think it would take off here in the States. What do you think?