Crack Sentencing Reform Means 12,000 Early Releases

Jessica Gresko and John O’Connor, AOL, November 1, 2011

Antwain Black was facing a few more years in Leavenworth for dealing crack. But on Tuesday, he returned home to Illinois, a free man.

Black, 36, was among the first of potentially thousands of inmates who are being released early from federal prison because of an easing of the harsh penalties for crack that were enacted in the 1980s, when the drug was a terrifying new phenomenon in America’s cities.

{snip}

The 1980s-era federal laws punished crack-related crimes much more severely than those involving powdered cocaine–a practice criticized as racially discriminatory because most of those convicted of crack offenses were black.

More recently, the penalties for crack were reduced to bring them more in line with those for powder, and Tuesday was the first day inmates locked up under the old rules could get out early.

Some 12,000 prisoners are expected to benefit from reduced sentences over the next several years, with an estimated 1,900 eligible for immediate release as of Tuesday. On average, inmates will get three years shaved off their sentences. The reductions do not apply to people found guilty of crack offenses under state laws.

{snip}

Under the old system, a person convicted of crack possession got the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine. Five grams of crack, about the weight of five packets of Sweet N’Low, brought a mandatory five years; it took 500 grams of powder to get the same sentence.

{snip}

In 2010, Congress reduced the disparity in sentences for future cases. {snip}

{snip}

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  • sbuffalonative

    Black succeeded in arguing that black crack dealers were subject to harsher sentences.

    Now these black crack dealers will be reintroduced into black neighborhoods, crime and violence will escalate, blacks will scream and rant that the police don’t care about their community, there will be demands to crack down on re-offenders, and the cycle goes round and round.

  • Joseph

    I’m with Ron Paul on this one: The war on drugs has been a monumental waste of money and resources and we should release all non violent drug offenders.

    Twelve thousand prisoners at a cost of $25K = $300,000,000/year in savings per year.

    In Washington state one can go to the state run liquor store buy a gallon of whiskey and drink yourself to death no problem, but if that same idiot buys cocaine we lock him up.

    Makes perfect sense.

  • NBJ

    You know, I can’t swear by this but it seems I read somewhere that it was the black community who demanded that law enforcement and government do something more to deal with the crack epidemic that was sweeping their communities, including harsher punishment….. and now they are crying foul? Can anyone verify this?

  • Anonymous

    Expect thousands of petty crimes, armed robberies, and sexual assaults as a result of this genius move. Once again, the taxpayer gets screwed by “well meaning” officials.

    This is highlighted (very briefly) in a Takimag article this week on how legitimate things like the post office and libraries, which serve everyone, get budget cuts while at the same time things like caring for addicts and their children remain fully funded, despite serving only a sliver of the population. Unfortunately, the usual reactions ensued…so I guess people must really like crack babies and meth heads for some reason, even if it means giving up programs that service everyone else…Glad to see AmRen readers know better!

    Going un-Postal

    http://goo.gl/q0fMq

  • Question Diversity

    I’m going to save the name “Antwain Black” in a Google News Search. Once in awhile, I’ll call up that bookmark. Within a year, he’ll be headed back to prison.

  • NBJ

    After a little research, I find I was correct.

    http://goo.gl/1Bril

    From the link above:

    “Crack came into its own in the late 1980s,” he says. “There were turf wars, murder rates were astronomical, and most of it was associated with the drug trade.

    Community members began urging law enforcement to develop a strategy to combat drug crime, Walton says. “They wanted relief,” he says, noting that the community initially asked for tougher laws on crack crime. “We knew how desperate they were. We were seeing what was happening to the children and began weighing what type of punishment would have the greatest impact. ”

    So you see, they got what they asked for THEMSELVES and now they claim it’s racist and unfair. As per usual, you can’t win with black people.

  • Cogitator

    I agree with number 2 above.

    This isn’t a black white issue. The drug war is just plain wrong — I don’t care what the color of the person convicted under the drug laws is.

    I will acknowledge that many of the people currently imprisoned for drug crimes will likely wind up back in prison for some other crime. Also had they not been locked down for a drug crime, they may well be doing time for some other crime.

    If we are to live in a lawful society that respects the rights of the individual, we have to have police that will to a proper job and get the criminals for committing malum in se crimes.

  • underdog

    Blacks are their own worst enemies and crack addiction is known among substance abuse counselors as a “self-cleaning oven”. Let’s give our dusky brethren what they most loudly scream for. (cystic fibrosis-like breathing problems, two remaining nerve synapses talkin’ to yo’self twitchy wiggly walking on the ghetto sidewalk and a quick death)

  • Anonymous

    I see the crack cocaine problem every day. The hardcore addicts are like zombies, roaming from shelters and food kitchens, begging for money and doing petty thefts.

    It makes little sense to incarcerate these wretched blacks at great taxpayer expense, because that just places a tax burden on productive whites.

    Whites who have jobs and property would be better off with a tax break, investing in physical defenses like gates, guns, and locks.

  • Greg

    I’m certainly NOT with Ron Paul. What racial realist believes that Mr. Black would be a law-abiding citizen if crack were legalized? Do drug laws not serve as a sort of “pre-crime” screening device?

  • Anonymous

    #2 I’m with Ron Paul on this one: The war on drugs has been a monumental waste of money and resources and we should release all non violent drug offenders.

    Joseph….what you fail to understand is there are no non-violent drug offenders. Our prisons are a revolving door system where the typical felon has to develop a long laundry list of SERIOUS crimes, with multiple victims, often hurt very badly before they are sent to prison. Your typical drug felon has raped multiple women, stabbed multiple mugging victims, murdered several people before the system gives up and tosses him in prison. Even then, because of black jury nullification, even these are given minor sentences for serious crimes else they will just demand a jury trial, filled with blacks who will find them not-guilty no matter what the evidence is.

    That’s the real difference between powder and crack crimes. Typical yuppy caught with his personal stash, has never been in trouble with the law before. His crack huffing counterpart is a wigged out psychopath who has raped, robbed and murdered his way to being such a problem the police have to deal with him, even though his neighborhood is the type of place where most crime is just ignored with the understanding that these people stay in their own neighborhood.

    Ron Paul is a good man, supposedly. At least he talks a good game, but mysteriously, never manages to get anything done despite it being what everyone in the country wants. But he obviously doesn’t understand the world outside his nice, rich, white community.

    If he did, he’d know that the type of politics he espouses works only for good, decent, hard working, moral, WHITE people. In order for it to work, non-whites need to be kept out. And the worst need to swing from a gallows.

  • Question Diversity

    10 Greg:

    More than that, they’re often the “safety” or “fallback” crimes that District Attorneys can use for plea bargain fodder to at least guarantee that a thug with multiple serious violent felony charges does at least some prison time, because the drug crimes are victimless, and therefore do not depend on a victim showing up to court to testify.

    Ghetto or barrio dweller gets popped for Murder 2, a few armed robberies and dealing weed. A ghetto or barrio jury is reluctant to arrive at a guilty verdict. So the DA pleads away Murder 2 and the armed robberies for a guilty plea on the weed dealing, in exchange for the maximum sentence allowable by state law for weed dealing. That way, they do wind up with felonies on their sheets, and if they’re caught with guns again when they get out, the Feds will scoop ’em up for five years at a time. Life on the installment plan.

    Every once in awhile on AR, probably one coming up soon, there will be a story whining about the disproportionately long sentences blacks get for “drug crimes” compared to whites. Now you know the reason why.

    People complain about cops having “throw down” guns or “throw down” drugs, stuff they can plant on someone. What that’s really all about is that they’re not going to plant a gun or a drug on your 80-year old grandmother in transit from the retirement complex to the church hall for bingo if she runs a stop sign. That’s to plant something on blatant habitual thugs, usually black or Hispanic, in order to have the fallback crime for the DA’s office.

    As far as the crack powder disparity that used to exist, crack cocaine is far more addictive than powder cocaine. I understand that you’re addicted to crack for pretty much the rest of your life after the very first time you use it.

  • tryclosan

    I also heard that crack sentencing was made tougher partially in response to black outcry. However, looking up the origins of the 1986 federal Anti Drug-Abuse Act results in thousands and thousands of sources that echo the same thing: blacks were discriminated against. Even a supposedly scholarly article (available here: http://goo.gl/mKTFJ ; go to page 1227) is pretty obviously depicting blacks as victims from the opening pages.

    The only mention of blacks lobbying for harsher crack sentencing was here:http://goo.gl/fNLLA: “Fully half of the African-American representatives in Congress voted for the act, many of them emphasizing the harm that crack use was causing to black communities.”

    Almost all the sources I found, including the New York Times, American Criminal Law Review, and Stanford Law School all sound pretty much the same: easing crack sentencing is a triumph for justice and equality.

    I don’t understand how they can all with a straight face overlook the reason the harsh laws disproportionately affected blacks: they chose to keep on selling and buying crack despite the new, harsher sentences.

  • Tab Numlock

    The difference is, whites buy powdered cocaine WITH THEIR OWN MONEY.

  • ATBOTL

    Nothing like some good old reactionary nonsense like the idea that it’s a good thing for the police break the ninth commandment and put innocent people in jail.

  • wowzer

    60% of crack users are white, so this really isn’t a black and white issue is it.

    http://www.crack-facts.org/

    also, what good does it do to sentence non violent drug offenders b/c you think they will be violent at some point to 25 years to life and let out known sex offenders in less than 15 years. one group can be rehab and released into society. the other cannot.

  • hts

    #11 you have failed to properly think through the scenario. If the “typical drug felon” has committed the atrocities you describe, then 1) Obviously the drug laws didn’t serve their intended purpose, 2) The perpetrators should have been jailed permanently for the heinous crimes mentioned, NOT for consuming the drugs. The black market (so to speak) for drugs fosters a violent gang atmosphere similar to that seen during prohibition, only more brutal. If we didn’t have to spend taxpayer resources to police a personal choice, we could allocate those resources towards solving real crimes as you mentioned, and keeping said criminals in prison. Besides, if these idiots WANT to do drugs, and end up killing themselves…I DO NOT CARE. A lot more could be said than in this short thread, but if drugs were made legal, I believe Black on White crime would actually decrease. Due to numerous factors, such as the aforementioned ability to allocate resources to real crime.

  • sbuffalonative

    You know, I can’t swear by this but it seems I read somewhere that it was the black community who demanded that law enforcement and government do something more to deal with the crack epidemic that was sweeping their communities, including harsher punishment….. and now they are crying foul? Can anyone verify this?

    I can confirm this.

    I moved to NYC in the early 1980’s just when AIDS and crack were becoming major stories.

    Blacks were holding rallies demanding that the police do something about the crackheads in their community so the government imposed harsher penalties for crack than for cocaine.

    Of course, a few years later, another group of blacks began complaining that too many young black men were getting longer sentences than white men who were caught with cocaine.

    It like when blacks complain their neighborhoods are dangerous and say the police are ignoring their community. As soon as the police show up, another group of blacks complains that blacks are being targeted by racist cops.

    When it comes to blacks, it’s a no win situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • Anonymous

    #2 and #9. My wife works as a counselor for drug addicts, and while the pattern poster #9 describes is typically quite true for female drug offenders, it is not the same ballpark for male offenders. A female junkie may have dozens of larceny offenses, embezzlement, fraud, bad checks, prostitution, drug possession, drug distribution, and even crimes of violence such as doping, and robing johns, and she will still likely end up with a referral to drug treatment for the 4th, 5th, 6th time. This is usually after having their sentences set to more probation, and time served during pretrial.

    Male offenders, regardless of race usually end up in prison after 1 to 3 offenses of this type unless they a lucky enough to get a lenient judge, or a prosecutor who moves their case to drug court. Even then, they are unlikely to get more than 2 or 3 shots at drug treatment before their probation is revoked, and they are off to prison. Is there a difference in the offense? Yes, and no. For the same offenses they get more time, but they do tend to resort to crimes that carry harsh penalties such as mugging, armed robbery (often of drug dealers), and breaking & entering. The ones that resort to those crimes generally don’t get a probation referral, or a visit to drug court. Nor do I think that they should. However, I am troubled that the female prostitutes that resort to drugging, and robbing their johns are often released into half way houses, put on probation, and get a first class ticket to drug treatment with a ton of benefits attached.

    Crack, and heroin are severely psychologically addictive, and are physically addictive. Crack, and heroin are up there with cigarettes in terms of how many become hooked for life. The ones that do break that cycle often need 5 or more trips to drug treatment to break free. This isn’t because drug treatment programs are poorly run, it is because the length of the typical program is far too short for people to develop new habits, and reintegrate back into society. Often with the records they have, they have little to go back to.

    I lost a friend recently to heroin. He had a masters degree in information systems. He was earning decent money at the time of his first arrest, but heroin addiction clouds the mind, and he attempted to embezzle from his employer. Upon his arrest the officers noted the many needle marks on his arms, and legs. The police obtained a search warrant for his house, and found a small quantity of heroin, and a few needles. In Missouri the paraphernalia laws are nearly as severe as those for minor possession. No probation, no drug court. He served 2 out of 5 years for his crime, and they extended his probation out to 7 years because he was a few minutes late for a meeting with a probation officer. The only drug treatment he received was a mandatory group therapy session with a for profit company that stole an additional $500 a month from him during his probation. No employer would touch him for anything meaningful after that in his field.

    He went back to prison because he couldn’t afford to pay the probation fees, and drug treatment fees. His story is pretty typical of how Missouri handles hard drug cases when the accused is a man. When he got out he had nothing to return to. He stayed clean long enough., and was lucky enough to get his case moved to a drug court, and to convince the drug court to let his case go. He slowly slipped back into occasional heroin use, but kicked it again on his own. After the death of his father he couldn’t cope, and died trying to an inject an amount that probably would have been trivial had he been using daily, but it killed him. He had never committed a violent crime, yet he spent 5 years in prison for the crimes he had committed, and a violation of an unreasonable probation standard due to poverty.

    I have a former associate who is female. She has been convicted of more than 30 minor crimes, and 11 felonies (that I know about) at this point. She has never served more than 90 days anywhere for her offenses, and has been referred (at no expense to her) to drug treatment no less than 6 times. She has several active warrants out for her arrest, and walked away from her last attempt at drug treatment, and from the half way house that she was supposed to stay at in order to turn a trick to go get high. Unlike Scotty, she has drugged, and robbed johns. She was an RN, and had a family before she tried heroin, and cocaine on a whim because the drug she wanted wasn’t available at the time, and she still wanted to party. Like Scotty she had nothing to go back to. She had burned every bridge she had ever built. The last time I spoke with her she had a $100 a day habit. This is not the kind of money you can make legally easily when you can no longer work in your given career. Her child was taken from her, and she is in arrears for child support as well. If she doesn’t get locked up, I likely will be attending her funeral in the near future. It hurts as we were quite close when we were much younger.

    This change is to federal law. It will affect very few people as most of these crimes are prosecuted at the state, and county level. As much as I despise heroin, cocaine, and all amphetamines (including the lifelong happiness robber MDMA)– there has to be a better way to deal with this problem than what we are doing.

    Either we take the approach to treatment seriously by extending the time available for an addict to readjust, allow medical tapers, and maintenance with a less abusive, and profiteering system than methadone clinics — or we need to legalize, and regulate it. The current system of locking up the men for long stretches, and coddling with women with feel good drug court orders that don’t give enough time to make real changes hasn’t worked. A person doesn’t change their life in a 10 to 21 day stay at a drug treatment facility. Nor do they fair well on avoiding staying afoul of the probation system when it asks for $500 a month of their income from a minimum wage job. Nor are methadone clinics a truly less than parasitic option as they charge typically $600 to $1200 a month to dole out $4-5 worth of medicine a month.

    Black, white, hispanic, asian, jewish, I don’t care — we can do better than what we are doing. Accept some portion of the population is going to screw up, set up a meaningful maintenance program that allows them to still have their drug while destroying the money side of the black market. Many of them will tire of it, and eventually move on. The rest of us will be spared the massive number of crimes they commit trying to afford their drugs. Like you I have some reservations about doing this for cocaine as its a different ballpark from heroin, but I still think its worth a shot for them as well.

  • Greg

    The problem with libertarianism with regard to drug law is that it assumes the problem is with the prosecution of drug usage and not the drug usage itself. While I don’t deny excessive sentencing occurs, a straight legalization of hard drugs will lead to further societal problems and criminality. Thus the solution isn’t excess prosecution or full legalization. It is a ethno-cultural one. People who tend to have a strong sense of moral right and wrong are less likely to seek pleasure in drugs. Ethnically, we can point to people groups who are more likely to abuse hard drugs and those who are less likely.

  • Anonymous

    “There are no non-violent drug offenders”-#11 Well,uhh, what am I? Chopped Liver?!?! Not only am I non-violent drug offender, I read and post on AmRen too!!!

  • Anonymous

    20 — Anonymous wrote at 11:58 AM on November 3:

    “There are no non-violent drug offenders”-#11 Well,uhh, what am I? Chopped Liver?!?! Not only am I non-violent drug offender, I read and post on AmRen too!!!

    _____________________

    Well, you must be so proud of being a drug offender and I have to wonder why you would even post such drivel.

    As a WN, I have no use for drug users, they are a detriment to the White race and the White family. They are in effect keeping these drug lords and gangs in business who in turn, commit horrific crimes and destroy whole American cities… Thanks a lot.

  • Anonymous

    14 — Tab Numlock wrote at 10:11 PM on November 2:

    The difference is, whites buy powdered cocaine WITH THEIR OWN MONEY.

    __________________

    Thank you….. I cannot believe all these posters who buy into the notion of drug using is okay as long as you don’t do crimes. Even some blame Whitey for it all. They say legalize it all, yet none say a word about the devastating effects of drugs on the individual, society and to their own families, including their own kids! It becomes a perpetual cycle with each generation.

    The cost to us taxpayers to repair all the devastation they themselves create, is beyond astronomical, it is unacceptable. Foster care, family support, all types of welfare, prison/court costs, family break-ups, drug rehab after drug rehab, they cannot work or hold a job, robberies, assaults, murders as just a few of their crimes.

  • Question Diversity

    17 hts wrote:

    The perpetrators should have been jailed permanently for the heinous crimes mentioned, NOT for consuming the drugs.

    Nice sounding platitude you got there. Here in the real world of real black ghettos, the reality on the ground is that it’s almost impossible to get a black jury to convict a black defendant on those “real heinous crimes,” partially because the jury doesn’t want to convict, and often those “real heinous crimes” have human victims that can’t testify because they’re dead, or are too scared to testify because they’re afraid of gang retribution or social ostracism from “da community,” or they don’t want to testify because they hate the white criminal justice system more than their black assailants. All that’s left are the victimless drug crimes.

    And no, the “ninth amendment” isn’t in danger here, because they’re pleading guilty to crimes that are state law and getting sentences square with state law. Yeah, the “throw down” thing, but I don’t lose sleep over that, because I like being alive as much as I like having a viable Constitution, and it could be the case that I’m living today because some St. Louis cop “threw down” a gun or drugs on one of St. Louis’s young black worthies, and he was in prison when he otherwise would have shot me in a “robbery gone bad.”

  • Anonymous

    Reply to #19: I read your post twice, carefully.

    “I lost a friend recently to heroin.”

    I lost a brother and cousin to drunk driving. Should we ban alcohol and have another go at prohibition like in the 1920’s?

  • hts

    #24 OK. So what does that have to do with drug usage? Are you saying that drug usage is the cause of black behavior? I beg to differ. Well, here in my real White Enclave world, the blacks evading their boundaries, assaulting whites to get money to buy drugs that cost an outrageous price due to the fact that they’re illegal causes me to lose sleep. I couldn’t care a whit what happens in the “real black ghetto”. What I care about is what the ridiculous ban on drugs causes in the real white world outside of the “real black ghetto”. If you live in a “real black ghetto”, I feel for you, and urge you to correct that situation.

  • Question Diversity

    24 hts:

    I think we’re discussing apples and oranges here. I’m trying to say that all those real violent crimes blacks commit against whites to get their drugs (which would continue even if drugs were legalized and therefore the price went way down) are very hard to get on their rap sheets. As an aside, I live in safe almost lily-white suburbs at the moment, though areas just to the east of me are becoming The New Subcontinent, a bit OT:

    http://goo.gl/Zo4Oz

  • WR the elder

    #22 Anonymous, do you include alcohol users as drug users? Is every white person who drinks alcohol a detriment to the white race?

    I would like our cops to be honest. If a man has committed rapes or assaults or theft get him convicted for that reason, not because he was carrying pot.

  • Anonymous

    What many people do not realize is that possession of illegal drugs is what they pled guilty of.

    They usually are arrested for far more serious crimes. To save time, they are urged to plead guilty to the lesser gun and drug charges. Attempted rape, B&E and home invasion might be pled down to criminal trespass and possession of whatever drugs he has.

    Attempted murder with great bodily injury can and is often pled down to discharging a weapon within city limits. All sorts of violent felons are sentenced to the drug charges they pled to, but actually should spend the rest of their lives in prison.

    The employment picture is horrible. My daughter, an IBEW commercial industrial inside wireman electrician has not worked for 3 years. If she can’t get a job, how are these losers going to get jobs. Then too, consider that most of the low level jobs now go to illegal hispanics rather than blacks.

    They will probably be placed in some sort of goverment jobs.

    If they are like the existing “hire parolees” goverment jobs, look forward to masses of rapes, assaults and even more disfunctional black goverment slugs than usual.

  • Anonymous

    3 — NBJ wrote at 5:54 PM on November 2:

    “You know, I can’t swear by this but it seems I read somewhere that it was the black community who demanded that law enforcement and government do something more to deal with the crack epidemic that was sweeping their communities, including harsher punishment….. and now they are crying foul? Can anyone verify this?”

    I can. I remember very well. It was in the 1980’s. I remember the papers full of Maxine Waters screeching that the feds had to make crack penalties more illegal because it was hurting the blacks who seem to get addicted to everything and anything.

    So congress obeyed CBC and passed the anti crack law. Within a year blacks were screeching that the crack laws were discriminatory because blacks were arrested more than Whites.

    The liberal media kept up a constant barrage urging congress to pass the crack laws. The papers were full of pathetic little black babies born on crack that the evil White congress critters could save if they would only pass the anti crack laws.