Monday, November 20, 2006

Author of crack sentencing bill calls it a mistake

The author of the 1986 bill that mandated a 100-times more severe sentence for crack cocaine than for powder now calls the bill "a terrible mistake."

Eric Sterling was the lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee from 1979 to 1989 and wrote the mandatory sentencing bill that requires five years imprisonment for possession of five grams of crack cocaine.

In an op-ed piece, Sterling also says that the way the Justice Department has enforced the bill has been "a disaster."

Sterling writes that "almost all federal crack prosecutions involve people of color. Indeed, for years no whites were prosecuted for crack offenses in many federal courts, including those in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Dallas or Boston."

Fixing the 100-1 disparity is only part of the solution, Sterling writes. It's also necessary to focus prosecution on the big dealers, the people who import the drug by the tens of kilograms. Federal prosecutors have wasted millions of dollars and countless hours prosecuting small time neighborhood dealers and couriers, Sterling says.

Read the full article here.


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