Will Dick Durbin prove able to bridge the gap in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine? Adam Serwer of The American Prospect certainly hopes so because, he says, it is one that must be mended. An excerpt

The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine is a national disgrace. Both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have called for it to be ended, and prominent Republicans like Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn have indicated they're sympathetic to the idea. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the Fair Sentencing Act, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin's proposal to eliminate the disparity entirely.

"It is plainly unjust to hand down wildly disparate prison sentences for materially similar crimes," Holder said at a D.C. Court of Appeals Judicial Conference last summer. "It is unjust to have a sentencing disparity that disproportionately and illogically affects some racial groups."

Under current federal law, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same mandatory minimum sentence as five grams of crack cocaine. The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed at a time when both black and white lawmakers wrongly believed that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine. An absurdity, the law means that a high-level drug trafficker carrying hundreds of grams of powder cocaine is sentenced more lightly than a retail drug dealer on the corner with a rock in his sock.


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