I have received a ton of email about the Senate’s recent passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
March 17, 2010 (NPR, North Country Gazette)- excerpt
Under unanimous consent, the Senate today for the first time passed legislation that would end the controversial 100 to 1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 would decrease the quantity disparity to 18 to 1. The bill moves on to the House for action… Last week, after senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) reached a compromise, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary unanimously passed the bill which raises the trigger amount of crack cocaine for the 5-year mandatory minimum from 5 grams to 28 grams, and the trigger for a 10-year mandatory minimum from 50 grams to 280 grams.
From my perspective, it is a good start, because this particular disparity contributes to the disproportionate number of young African-American males to be in prison.
First, I recognize that it is a compromise, which means that this is the best that we can do in closing the gap, at this time, and under these conditions. After all, everything is a compromise. Nothing is perfect.
Second, I recognize the tremendous damage done in the community through the distribution of crack cocaine. And, in all my years, I have never seen a crack damaged brain repair itself. Crack-heads never recover. The brain damage caused by crack sends the victim into a downward spiral in mental capacities. Many are wards of the state or the county, labeled as MHMR (Mental Health/Mental Retardation). Most crack-heads that I know receive disability checks from the state of Texas. Otherwise, they cannot care for themselves at all.
At my age, my energies are better spent educating the next generation about the irreversible brain damage caused by the drug, and to help steer kids away from it, and minister to the children whose parents are addicted. I have brothers and sisters trying to help ex-addicts break their addictions.
But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again. This is a lost generation, wiped off the useful face of the map by crack cocaine.
Therefore, my sentiment for crack cocaine distributors is mixed. I believe that Justice must be tempered by the weight of the crime. For example, the Jena 6 teenagers should not have been charged with aggravated assault and have to face up to 80 years in prison, all because of a school yard fight. Shequanda Cotton should never have been sent to juvenile detention for up to 7 years for shoving her way into the school building. Genarlow Wilson should have never been sentenced to 10 years for consensual with a teenage girl only two years his junior. Jamie Scott should not have a double life sentence for an $11 robbery in which no one was hurt.
Black defendants should not receive 100-to-1 times the sentence given to others for the same offense. Cocaine is cocaine.
But we do not live in a “shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’” world. We take the compromise and thank God for it, and continue to fight for better, and clean of the mess made by imperfect men and their bad judgment.