Crack Sentencing in the Federal System

One of the glaring problems with federal drug sentencing laws was the very heavy sentencing applied to people accused of having rock or crack cocaine, as opposed to powder cocaine. The myth that emerged in the 1980s was that crack cocaine was somehow more dangerous than powder cocaine.

As a result of the hysteria in the 1980s over crack violence and crack babies and the crack epidemic, Congress decided to punish the possession, sale, or trafficking in crack cocaine much more harshly that the possession, sale, or distribution of powder cocaine.

Now some sanity has been restored to federal drug sentencing guidelines – although they remain very punitive and much too harsh for a civilized society.

Since crack cocaine has plagued the African-American community more than other communities, African-Americans were punished much more harshly than people of other backgrounds. This racial disparity was certainly in the minds of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines commission which, following the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, has now approved procedures which will reduce the sentences of more than 12,000 Americans who have been punished unduly harshly for possession of crack cocaine.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

About 12,000 federal prisoners nationwide may soon be going home, some as much as three years early, under a U.S. Sentencing Commission decision to allow retroactive reductions in prison terms for inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses. The commission voted unanimously Thursday to bring “unfairly long sentences” for crack offenders, mostly African Americans, more in line with the shorter terms given to powder cocaine offenders, often white and sometimes affluent.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.