Who benefits from changes in federal sentencing rules?

sentencing reform 2

 

Black men are most likely to go to prison and are doing so at alarmingly high rates says the Obama administration.

When compared to the incarceration rates of white men, black men are worse off and find themselves locked up more often than their counterparts. Offenses related to drugs are the number one reason for a black man in America to get arrested and sentenced to jail time.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, white men are arrested at a rate of 678 per 100,000 of the population, while the rate for black men is 4,347.

These jaw-dropping statistics are a grave cause for concern among criminal justice policy advocates and members of Congress who took the matter to the Justice department. After receiving bipartisan support, sentencing reform has become more than a passing discussion in the halls of Congress. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which curtailed the disparity in the manner which sentencing for crack cocaine offenses is handed down in the federal courts. Prior to the new legislation, the inequality in which judges displayed in punishing those convicted for offenses related to crack cocaine versus cocaine, screamed racism and lead to a disproportionate number of black men serving prison sentences.  These sentences were much longer and harsher than those served by white men convicted of crimes related to cocaine.

Under the old federal sentencing guidelines, 100 grams of cocaine were treated essentially the same as 1 gram of crack and accounted for an overcrowded, underfunded federal prison system. Although the Fair Sentencing Act reduces the penalty down to an 18:1 ratio, the system still remains inherently unfair, as African Americans make up 80 percent of those sentenced for federal crack cocaine offenses. The Obama administration has called for additional bills to address the overwhelming disparity, which would further reduce the penalty to a 1:1 ratio.

Attorney General Eric Holder waged his support and announced that the Department of Justice would instruct federal judges to begin implementing the new guidelines, marking an end to mandatory minimum sentences.

 

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April 8, 2014 · 1:46 am

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