after decades of "get tough" rhetoric, democrats and republicans are unifying their efforts in the spirit of equality, fairness and justice. the smarter sentencing act, s. 1410, introduced today by senators durbin, and lee, takes two significant steps forward.
first, it reduces overly harsh penalties for drug offenses and allows judges greater flexibility in sentencing. second, it extends the more equitable crack cocaine provisions of the fair sentencing act retroactively to individuals serving prison terms under the now discredited 100-to-1 sentencing disparity.
the smarter sentencing act recognizes what advocates, practitioners and scholars have long understood: ever increasing criminal penalties are not an effective way to keep americans safe. nowhere is this more true than in the area of mandatory minimum penalties, which apply a one-size-fits all approach prohibiting federal judges from assessing cases on an individual basis.
not only are mandatory minimums a primary driver of skyrocketing federal prisons, but they result in racial unfairness. the toxic combination of the so-called war on drugs and diminishing judicial discretion has filled more than half of our federal prisons with individuals convicted of drug offenses, few of whom are kingpins of the drug trade.
this bill does not eliminate mandatory minimums. by reducing penalties and restoring discretion to judges, it will help to mitigate their harshest effects. s. 1410 compliments the fair sentencing act to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses - a disparity which disproportionally penalizes African-American communities. the senate should pass this legislation to address unjust criminal justice system penalties which fuel racial disparities in sentencing.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.