Pubdate: Tue, 13 Nov 2007
Source: Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Greensboro News & Record, Inc.
Author: James N. Holmes


Equal justice under the law still remains elusive for 20,000 people 
serving federal sentences for crack cocaine, despite the U.S. 
Sentencing Commission's long-awaited reform of federal sentencing 
guidelines for crack, which became effective Nov. 1.

These prisoners are serving sentences so harsh that they will no 
longer be imposed on future defendants, but they are ineligible for 
relief because the new guideline is not yet retroactive. People 
serving mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine under the very 
laws that created the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and 
powder cocaine also are not affected by the new guideline.

Only Congress can change mandatory minimum laws. The Sentencing 
Commission's latest report to Congress confirms that punishing people 
more severely for crack cocaine overstates the harmfulness of the 
drug and has a devastating impact on low-level offenders and 
minorities. The time is ripe for reform, especially given the 
bipartisan support for sentencing reform that has emerged in recent 
years. The Sentencing Commission should make the new guideline 
retroactive, and Congress must act decisively and now to reform 
mandatory sentencing laws.
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