Our Voice: Racially Unfair Federal Sentencing Guidelines Should Be Reformed

For as long as most people can remember there has been a seemingly racially motivated bias in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for drug convictions. Specifically, the weight of crack or rock cocaine has been multiplied by 100 when applying the cocaine related offenses penalties. This means that if you got busted by the feds for 1 gram of crack, you will receive the same penalty as someone busted with 100 grams of cocaine in powder form.

The guidelines originated during the crack cocaine scare of the mid-1980’s, and federal lawmakers responded with aggressive laws intended to assist law enforcement in a crack down on low-level drug dealers. Unfortunately, the results were far more draconian than expected, and hindsight now reveals a possible racial or at least socio-economic bias. Current Vice President Joseph Biden, who aided in drafting the guidelines in 1986 which created the 100:1 disparity, now says that, “Each of the myths upon which we based the disparity has since been dispelled or altered.”

While the original reasons for creating the 100:1 disparity rule have been debunked as myth, the ridiculously long sentences are still in force. The impact has wide spread effects and the major burden has fallen upon the over-represented African American Community. A coalition of leaders is now urging the House of Representatives to pass a reform bill which would reduce the disparity from 100:1 to 18:1 or even lower.

The coalition argues that even thought the majority of crack cocaine offenders are white, that 80% of the convictions using the 100:1 disparity rule involve African Americans. Numbers like this are strong evidence that the 100:1 disparity law is racially biased in its application. This prejudice may stem from racial stereotypes of African Americans as the dealers and users of crack cocaine, perceived as a “street” drug, as opposed to whites who supposedly prefer the powder variety of cocaine. The numbers show that these assumptions are incorrect of course, but stereotypes persist. In this case, the stereotype carries with it far more federal jail time (with no possibility of parole) for an African American offender than a white one… and our Constitution does not allow for such a biased application of a law.

The Senate passed the reform bill this past March, and it now is up to the House to pass the bill and send it to the White House for ratification. We at the Ambrose Law Group urge you to speak or write to your local congressional representative to support the passing of this reform bill in order to rectify this miscarriage of justice. Find a sample letter here

Ambrose Law Group

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1 Comment

Filed under Drugs, Our Voice - Op/Ed

One response to “Our Voice: Racially Unfair Federal Sentencing Guidelines Should Be Reformed

  1. Pingback: Our Voice: Crack Cocaine Offenders Shouldn’t Slip Through The Cracks « Ambrose Law Group

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