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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Obama Signs Drug Sentencing Reform Into Law

In the early 1980s cocaine in America was more abundant than ever which caused the price to drop, drug dealers chose to convert the cocaine into a rock form to make more money. The crack epidemic was born! In attempt to curb the crack crisis, law makers decided in 1986 that the punishment for possession of crack cocaine be more severe than other drug charges. Now, there are countless people rotting away in prisons across the country for drug offenses, a person convicted of simple possession of crack cocaine received the same mandatory sentence as a person with 100 times that amount in powder cocaine. This usually meant the offender, generally a down and out drug addict, would be locked up for a minimum of five(5) years. Drug addicts who should have gone to treatment ended up entering a system that was next to impossible to escape.

On this morning, 24 years later, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, a bill that reduces the disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine offenses. The president said in a speech last week that this bill would "help right a longstanding wrong" and was "the right thing to do," reports the New York Times. Sentences for crack cocaine offenses were less harsh on Caucasians than blacks: "85 percent of people convicted of crack offenses are Black, even though Blacks make up just 30 percent of crack users".

Unfortunately, the verdict is still out whether congress will apply the law retroactively. It seems like that would be the right thing to do considering that the law was skewed before and many people were given an unfair sentence based on an unfair law. It cannot be stressed more that non-violent drug offenders do not belong in jail.

"By signing this reform into law, President Obama will save taxpayer money, reduce racial disparities and better prioritize federal law enforcement towards major crime syndicates instead of low-level offenders," Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Times.

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