The Obama administration’s stance favoring shorter sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine is likely to spark a debate with law-enforcement officials who have opposed easing the penalties, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We shouldn’t be lowering the penalties on crack. We’ve always talked about bringing the powder-cocaine penalties up,” said Gene Voegtlin of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Said James Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police: “We believe the remedy would be to increase the penalties for powder cocaine.”
A person caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine gets the mandatory minimum sentence of five years under federal law; it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger the same sentence. Critics say it unfairly targets African-American communities, where crack is more prevalent. The law is partly responsible for the rapid rise in the federal prison population, where more than 52 percent of the 204,000 inmates are serving time for drug crimes.