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Question Why are crack cocaine sentences longer than those for powder cocaine? (Posted by: Anonymous )

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Crack cocaine sentences have long been much more harsh than those for powder cocaine. The disparity started in the 1980s, when crack cocaine started to ravish urban black communities in America. The federal government sought to crack down on the problem by implementing severe prison sentences for those people caught dealing crack cocaine. For example, someone caught with powder cocaine would have to have 100 grams of the drug to get the same sentence as someone caught with just one gram of crack cocaine.

The thought behind the thinking was that the harsh sentences would deter people from dealing the drug. However, not only did it fail at that, it also had the unintended consequence of focusing disproportionately on blacks. Because black people were the main users of the drugs, they were also the main dealers of it. That means that most of the people receiving the longer sentences have been black people. People across the country have long disputed this issue. Those who saw it as racism have fought to make the two drugs, which are both cocaine just in different forms, equal in terms of sentencing. They believe that people with the same amount of the drugs should be sentenced similarly.

However, other people have been afraid to look soft on crime, so they have continued to push for the disparity in powder cocaine and crack cocaine sentences. Change finally started a few years ago. The U.S. Congress finally approved legislation that decreased the disparity between the two crimes. Although they were still not equal, you didn't have to have so much powder cocaine to get the same sentence as a person with just one gram of crack cocaine. The new law was made retroactive, and hundreds of federal prisoners across the country were able to apply for lower sentences.

Congress took another step in 2011, reducing the difference even more. It has dropped to a ratio of 18:1, meaning someone with one gram of cocaine would get a similar sentence as someone with 18 grams of powder cocaine. The change was also made retroactive, and, in November 2011, hundreds more inmates had their sentences reduced. In some cases, the prisoner was found to have actually served more time than he should have under the new sentence and was released immediately. In other cases, inmates saw their original sentences of 30 years cut to 20 years, a significant decrease.

Not everyone received the decrease, though. The federal government banned certain prisoners from getting a reduction, including those convicted of selling mass quantities of crack cocaine. A disparity still exits, too. It is unknown whether Congress will ever make the two crimes equal in sentences. Concerns still exist that the people who get the cuts in prison time might go back to a life of a crime or that the drop in prison time will make criminals not worry about the consequences of their actions. The opponents of disparity, however, have continued to fight the battle.

Besides taking the battle to Congress, some activist groups have also appealed the convictions of some defendants on the grounds that they are overly harsh. One legal battle has recently been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Do not know where I first saw this, but it was some Black judge and other leaders in the Black community pushed for this harsher sentence for crack use saying it was destroying their community. The unexpected result of high rates of Black incarceration resulted because the penalty did not deter; it only caught more in that well-intentioned net. But it was not mainly about racism. But I cannot remember the Black leaders and those documented details. By Marv on 18-09-12 at 01:47pm
The majority of what you stated is true, but I seriously doubt that the law "had the unintended consequence of focusing disproportionately on Blacks. Because Black people were the main users of the drugs, they were also the main dealers of it." Although Black communities were and are ravaged by crack usage, Blacks are NOT the primary users of crack. The numbers MAY have been higher in the 80's after the initial introduction of the drug into the urban areas, but the numbers as of the mid 90's reflect a different reality. The ratios per capita for Blacks may be higher than that of their White counterparts, but the overall numbers are much less. I understand that the media focus has been on the urban areas, but that has nothing to do with the reality of who actually uses crack. How law enforcement/ the criminal justice system has prosecuted the different users by race is another issue altogether. Similar inequities apply to marijuana arrests and prosecutions by race contrary to the usage statistics. Myth: Crack is used almost exclusively by Blacks and is a special plague of the Black community. Fact: While often characterized as a drug of the Black community, 60% of individuals who have used crack in the last month are White. White crack users also account for 66% of individuals who have ever used crack in their lifetime. Simply stated, the majority of crack users are White. Despite this reality, 80% of people arrested for crack offenses in
00
were Black. Consequently, a disproportionate number of Black crack offenders face the harsh mandatory minimums associated with crack convictions. Source: SAMHSA. Results from the
004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/
k4nsduh/
k4tabs/Sect1peTabs43to47.pdf http://www.crack-facts.org/ By MM on 20-09-13 at 05:21pm
Answer used the ambiguous term 'ravish', which is correct, but the answer should have been more explicit. The issue was, a tremendous uptick in murders. The loss of life, bloody consequences, meant action needed to be taken. If the disparity must be corrected, it should be to increase penalties for powder, not to ease up on crack. If we really wanted to end crime, we could do it. The poorest among us, all races, should at least be able to live in safe neighborhoods. The biggest bigotry BY FAR is allowing crime to be so rampant in the poor minority communities. Liberals and liberal judges would never allow a level of crime even close to this level if it were to appear in affluent white communities. By Don on 20-12-13 at 06:07am
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