Thousands of inmates who have been incarcerated for possessing small amounts of cocaine will get a taste of freedom soon due to the Crack Cocaine Disparity Law, according to CNN. The law changes the 100-to-1 disparity between minimum sentences for crack and powder cocaine to 18-to-1.

In the old system, people who were caught with 5 grams of cocaine would receive the same sentence as those caught with 500 grams, 5 years of jail time. Now those sentences will be cut in half for convicts busted for small amounts of drugs. Over 12,000 inmates are eligible for early release.

Michael Nachmanoff, the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia told CNN:

“This really has been one of the great stains on our federal criminal justice system for 20 years or more. This disparity between the punishment for crack cocaine and powder was really unjustified.” 

The law is going into effect now, but it was passed in August 2010.

  • Libby

    I am really conflicted about this..while in no way I support the sentence disparity, however people forget their are people who reside in communities who have to deal with these people with these “small amounts of cocaine”. It’s great for people who don’t have to live in neighborhoods overran with small time drug dealers and users.

  • SAA

    THATS what crack looks like?! it looks like baby teeth but anways yeah I feel conflicted about this…

  • Whatever

    But that’s the problem with the entire system. These 12,000 drug users and dealers were sitting in prison either doing nothing or putting together products for Corporations. No rehabilitation, therapy or counseling or even job training. Some of these men are in their late teens and 20′s and could stand to benefit from “alternative solutions bootcamp”The profit these companies make should go right back into the system for this.

    Also, this law applied to crack dealers/users only, so the suburban coke heads were of course not effected. Rapists were getting less time than this…. so much wrong with this entire situation. Sigh

  • Nne

    ^^^i hear you but the gross inequality of sentencing, which has been responsible for the warehousing of millions of people of color in glorified cages is an injustice that needs to e addressed. I think that has done more to destabilize the black family unit and community more than nonviolent drug trade. People become more violent after long prison sentences – true rehabilitation is elusive for the vast majority on convicts.

  • Nne

    The above was in response to Libby.

  • Mingus

    I’m not conflicted about this. I believe any DRUG dealer should be sentenced, but do it fairly. The fact is that they did treat crack dealers differently. It could’ve been because of “race” or the effects of crack cocaine, but when you have crack dealers getting 20+ years in prison while someone who sold pure cocaine gets probation, or someone who sells meth (which has the same if not worst effects) getting 1 to 2 years, this is a travesty.

    To me there is nothing to be conflicted about. We all want DRUG dealers off our streets and out of communities, but treat them all the same. Don’t tell me that meth isn’t just as bad as crack or pure cocaine. Don’t tell me that all those black and Latino men who have sat in prison for longer sentences than a pedophile couldn’t be rehabilitated while repaying their debt to society. This is my sole problem with the sentencing around drug convictions, because it always APPEARED like black and Latino men were punished far more severely than their white drug dealing peers.

    I really didn’t want to bring the “race” card into this, but one of the whole basis of the laws being changed was because study after study proved that “race” really did have a lot to do with it.

    Now, if they could treat all drug dealing the same I wouldn’t say a word. Crack, meth, cocaine, should all be on the same level, because they all destroy lives.

  • Nikesha

    after watching the planet rock: crack and hip hop generation on VH1 it really opened my eyes to the fury leading up to the sentencing disparity. yes crack is more addictive than cocaine, and because it was a drug primarily in the black community it furthered the stigma against Black people at a time when we really couldn’t afford it.

    I’m glad the 100 to 1 disparity is being reversed. it is past time. But i’m unsure of how any of it will play out in reducing the disparity of the race that is actually locked up in prison. the fair sentencing act by no means ends prison as a business and high profits nor is it a cure all for the prison industrial complex.

    it’s a start but we still have much much further to go

  • Libby

    @ Nne
    I said disagree with the disparity, but people forget their are families who live in these communities. People forget those in low income neighborhoods want to have the same protection from criminality as communities who don’t face the same realities. There this myth that violence does not surround small time drug dealers. The concern can not be only for those in the system, but also those who have to live next to places where small time drug dealers set up. For the children who have to walk through drug dealers to go to school.

  • Libby

    My question is why not advocate that power cocaine sentence to be raised to crack sentencing?
    I have yet to see someone make that argument. How is it better to let people who are holding black communities’ hostages out of jailer earlier fair to those in those communities?

    No one is saying the sentencing was not unfair, but I would rather they raise cocaine possession than lower crack.

  • Natalie

    I’m against disparity, but I’m all for putting all drug dealers in jail–FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME.

    Until you have worked with a child whose parents are strung out, and have left them because of their addiction, or a kid who suffers life-long emotional an physical problems due to being exposed to crack inutero, I’m not open to listening to the argument about the industrial prison complex. These terrorist were right where they were supposed to be–jail.

  • misunderstood

    I agree with you NNE. And Michelle Alexander’s book illustrates the disparities in the justice system that have led to more blacks being in prison than in slavery during Jim Crow.

    I understand your concern though Libby. I think if they are going to release people who might potentially still have drug issues or sell drugs, there needs to be some sort of program to help them adjust to returning to citizenship. And/Or a place for them to get help or provide options for jobs so that they don’t go back to selling drugs. And/Or a place for them to get counseling and rehabilitation for a drug problem. There needs to be support for these people returning back to society especially in this economy.

  • Libby

    I agree with most of what you said. But I have to take issue with the slavery and Jim crow comparison. Black folks under those conditions ( slavery and Jim Crow) did nothing to be put in oppressive conditions…I can’t compare them to dealer and users.

  • Bree

    Indeed the disparity was great but really a small amount of crack is enough to ruin enough lives. a double edged sword…which side would you rather be cut by I guess.

  • http://@clnmike Clnmike

    Too damn bad, if the prison system was geared to rehabilitating rather than breed more criminals no one would be worried about these men and women coming back into society. The sentencing was outrageous and did more harm than good, as for dealers its real simple if no one is buying no one is selling.

  • Libby

    Prison is not a resort where you go to get your life together. Really, so it’s fine to commit crimes because you can. This is the most backwards thinking I have ever seen. Where does your misguided morals stop. Is it okay to steal and fence goods because someone will buy it? Is it okay to sell illegal fire arms because someone with buy them? Is it okay to sell a girl as a sex slave because there is a market for it?
    It’s a sad state of affairs when people care more about people who are shooting up black neighborhoods, bring violence into black communities than those law abiding citizens who simply want to have a safe place to raise their children. Like you said “too bad for them” white you sit in your home safe and sound from these realities. SMH.

  • http://@clnmike clnmike

    Look don’t come on this thread and intentionally misinterpret what was written here. Who said anything about making a prison into a resort? I said rehabilitate, as in address the root causes of their behavior teach them alternatives before releasing them into public where they will eventually be released regardless if they are not rehabilitated. See that way the number of repeat offenders goes down.

    No one said anything about giving them a pass for their crime or that it was OK that they did it. What was said that if there was not a market for it than there wouldn’t be anyone to sell it. And is the root of all these types of crimes. It should have been obvious but than again that would require thinking outside of the box thinking instead of the ass backwards thinking of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a change.
    What’s tragic are people who continually buy into a failed system that creates more problems than it solves because it gives them the illusion that they can sleep better at night. Allow me to at this point to SMH.

  • Libby

    @ clnmike

    I did not misinterpret anything. You made a flip comment “if no one is buying no one is selling” as if that is some kind of justification for selling drugs. It’s not and it’s quite ridiculous to suggest that it. You are thinking outside the box, you are sitting in the box making excuses.

  • Whatever

    Another issue at hand is that there will be 12,000 unemployed people released…

  • Mingus

    @Libby have you actually followed the entire process? Do you really think not one of these lawyers and people in the legal system didn’t raise this point? If you do may I suggest google, because TONS of articles on law blogs and in legal journals about this. I know this because being a recent law school graduate, card toting JD – I was required to study many of these arguments.

    As far as rehabilitation is concerned, let me add: In the US penal system we are suppose to have in place a certain thing called rehabilitation for most criminals, i.e., those not on on death row. We tell the public that we will rehabilitate the people who are paying their debt to society, and will be released one day. It’s a proven fact that with crack dealers this was NEVER the goal. So what is the sense of jailing a crack dealer if you’re going to release them without any kind of rehabilitation programs under their belt? All they’re going to do is become repeat offenders. Recidivism has proven to only be reduced in prisoners who spent more time in prison (I believe it was 61+ months). Now, one doesn’t have to wonder why crack dealers (who are often black and latino) received longer sentences. There are TONS of studies, reports, articles on this Libby. I hope you get the chance to really dig into them. It’s not as simple as raising the cocaine levels to match crack. Not when those cocaine dealing offenders aren’t black or Latino. That’s our justice system, the cold hard truth. It’s not as blind as we’d like to think and it’s not as simple as raising the standards of one. Ask these politicians whose sons and daughter’s get caught with cocaine if they want those levels to be on par with crack dealing.

    Black and Latino’s make-up around 34% of the prison population. The US has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. So, no prison isn’t a resort, but there are levels of criminals and for the one’s who can be rehabilitated they should be before they’re unleashed back into society. Otherwise it all becomes cyclic.

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