Washington Post Opposes Equalizing Crack-Powder Penalties


The Washington Post has editorialized against equalizing sentences for crack and powder cocaine violations. The tougher penalty for crack offenders enacted in 1986 long has been a point of contention because of its disproportionate impact on blacks. The Post says the current debate in Congress “must not ignore evidence of the heightened dangers of addiction and violence posed by crack.”

The Justice Department has announced its support for reducing crack penalties to mirror exactly those for powder, and a bill by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) would codify this 1-to-1 ratio into law. The Post notes that a 2007 U.S. Sentencing Commission report shows that smoking crack delivers a faster, more intense high than snorting powder and that this high is more short-lived, thus compelling most crack users to seek additional doses of the drug. Perhaps the best solution, the newspaper says, “would be to eliminate the mandatory minimums for both crack and powder and build into the sentencing guidelines tougher penalty ranges for crack that judges could apply on a case-by-case basis.”

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