New law unfair to convicted drug dealers…maybe

Fox News

A year ago, a drug dealer caught with 50 grams of  crack cocaine faced a mandatory 10 years in federal prison. Today, new rules cut  that to as little as five years, and thousands of inmates not covered by the  change are saying their sentences should be reduced, too.

“Please make this situation fair to all of us,”  prisoner Shauna Barry-Scott wrote from West Virginia to the U.S. Sentencing  Commission, which oversees federal sentencing guidelines. “Treat us the  same.”

[…]Congress and President Barack  Obama agreed in August to reduce the minimum penalties for crack. But the  law did not apply to prisoners who were locked up before the change.

[…]Inmates who received the mandatory minimum sentence under the old system will  not be eligible for early release because only Congress can make mandatory  minimum sentences retroactive. But inmates who received above the minimum could  see their sentences reduced, and others whose offense did not rise to the level  of a mandatory minimum could be eligible for earlier release, too

[…]Not everyone supports the proposal for  retroactivity. The Fraternal Order of Police opposed the law Obama signed and  plans to oppose retroactivity before the commission, arguing criminals were  aware of the penalties for their actions.

“They knew what they were doing. They went into it  with their eyes open,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of  Police, which represents more than 300,000 law enforcement officers.

[…]For the change to be made retroactive, four members  of the six-member commission would have to vote to support the idea. If that  happens, Congress could still reject or modify the guidelines until the end of  October.

Given that the Fair Sentencing Act passed Congress  almost unanimously and that the commission has acted previously to make  sentencing changes retroactive, Marc Mauer of the Washington-based Sentencing  Project said he is cautiously optimistic that the proposal for retroactivity  will be adopted.

As libertarian as I am in many respects; I am a staunch supporter of harsh sentences for drug offenders, the harsher the better.  As the executive director of the FOP states, drug dealers know the risks going into the game. It’s not like it’s the selective service where at some point one must take the risk of selling drugs.  It’s never anyone’s turn to sell drugs.

Prisoner Shauna Barry-Scott’s outlook is not uncommon among criminals.  They see their (any) punishment as unfair.  In typical fashion, she attempts to portray herself as a victim rather than a perpetrator.  She voluntarily committed a crime (and no doubt many undetected crimes) which carried a certain punishment if caught.  Now the laws are set to be changed and she wants to be considered under the new law.  That doesn’t sound very fair to me.  Fair would be serving the penalty for the crime you committed under the laws you broke.

If legislators believe the current laws are too strict, fine, their job is to ensure just laws are in place with just punishments even if we disagree with their judgement. I think, however, it is wholly unjust to apply punishments retroactively to crimes committed, whether it benefits or penalizes the convict.  I’m certain Barry-Scott and other prisoner advocacy groups would not be pushing for retroactive sentencing if the penalties were increasing.  But why not, according to them, fair is applying the new laws to old crimes, right?  It seems fair is whatever is most beneficial.

Obvious cliché of the day: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

Comments

  1. So, you lean towards libertarianism, but not when it comes to drug activity and not when it comes to marriage equity?

    For my part, even though I’m a squeaky clean tea-totaller, I’d vote for ending our “war on drugs,” and begin the process of de-criminalizing the millions of people who’ve been caught up in these “crimes.”

    IF I thought criminalizing crack, tobacco or alcohol would actually work, I MIGHT be in favor of its criminalization. As it is, I’m not at all convinced it does anything but makes criminals of a large number of people who’d otherwise be productive citizens.

    I sort of agree with you that, legally, those already convicted of crimes under old policies, don’t really have much of a leg to stand on. But given the HUGE amount of money these people are costing us and the tremendous burden on our court system they represent, I’d be all for amnesty of some sort.

  2. Terrance H. says:

    John,

    There is no legitimate reason, as far as I can tell, that crack cocaine should carry a harsher sentence than powder cocaine. If such a reason exists, I’m unaware of it.

    It unfairly targets poor and black communities. IF you’re going to use cocaine – any cocaine – then you should, like you say, face the consequences. But the consequences should be reasonable and should not be disproportionate.

    As someone who seems to be quite fiscally conservative, I don’t understand your hesitation to support retroactive sentencing. Non-violent offenders who got caught in the teeth of an unjust law cost us millions and millions of dollars each year. Set them free if they’ve served the time they would have served had they been convicted of possessing or selling an equal amount of power cocaine.

    • You see thats one of my problems, Terrance. No drug unfairly targets anyone, unless it is your opinion that there is something inherent in blacks that they cannot control themselves and need to do drugs? I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but that is what is implied. Blacks and the poor, as far as I can tell, also have the same choice I have to not stick a needle in my arm, or to not ‘hit the pipe’. So ethically speaking, no one should be concerned about the harshness of drug laws. It was absolutely cliche, but if you aren’t willing to do the time…

      Also, I would be for increasing the penalty for powder cocaine before I’d be for reducing the penalty for crack.

      Why don’t you see why I wouldn’t be for retroactivity? When the fines for speeding go down, would you also think it is a good idea for lines to form at the state capital for people looking for partial rebates for the speeding tickets they got under the old law? Probably not. The point is, you know the risk going into the crime. You committed the crime with certain penalties. That is the law you broke, that is the penalty you pay. Like I said, no one is forced to commit crimes. It is no one’s turn to sell crack.

  3. Terrance H. says:

    So, you lean towards libertarianism, but not when it comes to drug activity and not when it comes to marriage equity?

    Why are you trying to put people into little boxes? I know a Republican who supports abortion and same-sex marriage. Is he less of a Republican? Try telling him that.

    IF I thought criminalizing crack, tobacco or alcohol would actually work, I MIGHT be in favor of its criminalization. As it is, I’m not at all convinced it does anything but makes criminals of a large number of people who’d otherwise be productive citizens.

    You don’t think de-criminalizing a substance would make it easier to find?

    I think pot should be legalized because I see no legitimate reason to prohibit it, as it is no more dangerous, in my view, than alcohol or tobacco. And depending on how it is consumed, less dangerous. You can’t overdose on it, and if it’s consumed via vapor inhalation, there are almost no carcinogens.

    It does kill brain cells, however. So considering that liberals are the group most likely to use it, and given they only operate with about 10 brain cells already, I’m not sure making the substance easier to get is the best thing to do. :-)

  4. Terrance H. says:

    No drug unfairly targets anyone, unless it is your opinion that there is something inherent in blacks that they cannot control themselves and need to do drugs?

    I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I do think the drug unfairly targets those residing within inner cities, who are almost always poor and African-American.

    You can blame that on liberalism. They built projects for the blacks, made them dependent on welfare, abandoned their schools, and left them with nothing but a life of crime. Drugs come with the territory. It’s an easy way to make a buck.

    Of course, the conservative in me knows that if you don’t succeed in life, the responsibility is yours. You can’t blame the government, the white man, or your parents. But let’s be real and honestly discuss the situation many African-Americans find themselves in, thanks in large part to liberalism. It’s not exactly a nurturing environment. It’s awfully hard to say “no” to the only thing you know. Some are able to slip those bonds, yes, but I render that the exception and not the rule.

    Why don’t you see why I wouldn’t be for retroactivity? When the fines for speeding go down, would you also think it is a good idea for lines to form at the state capital for people looking for partial rebates for the speeding tickets they got under the old law? Probably not.

    I don’t think you can make the argument that speed limits unfairly target anyone but drivers. I believe certain drugs inherently target poor, African-American communities. Nobody makes you break the law – most generally – but certainly the environment in which you are raised pushes you in a certain direction.

    Frankly, it’s hard to talk about the problems in the black community without being labeled a racist. But I’m past caring.

    African-American people populate the inner cities at a higher rate than whites and have become dependent on government support, thus failing to do anything for themselves except immerse themselves into a criminal enterprise.

    This isn’t true of all African-Americans, surly. But look at what ethnicity is best represented in American prisons and jails. It’s not whites, but blacks.

    That is the law you broke, that is the penalty you pay. Like I said, no one is forced to commit crimes.

    I understand your point and I agree with it, to a certain extent. But surly you must understand the role environment plays in pushing you in one direction.

    Seemingly, we both agree that crack and cocaine should be illegal. But I haven’t heard you even attempt to defend the sentence disparity, so perhaps we agree there as well. Our disagreement is over retroactive sentencing. And my argument is fairness. Given that crack and cocaine are the EXACT same drug, why should the penalties be different for a version of the drug most often seen in black and poor communities, and not for the version most often seen in white and affluent communities?

    I’m hesitate to scream racism, but I’d like to know exactly why the disparity came to be in the first place

  5. Mark your calendars folks! I agree with Terrence on more than one count.

    1.I think that the policy of stricter sentences for crack is unfair in that it targets one group more harshly than another for the same substance.
    2.I do not consider it racism to point out that the vast majority of inner city residents are African American, or that the variation of cocaine that they are more likely to encounter and traffic in is crack.
    3. I support the decriminalization of marijuana.

    Other than those astute observations, I think the rest is pure Terrence. Liberals cannot be blamed for the problems facing black americans. Not without accepting an equal amount of blame on the Conservative side of the fence. That comment is entirely an ideological partisan dig by someone who thinks that the only thing that stands between America and Utopia is a Republican dictatorship. All parties, and in fact all Americans, need to accept responsibility for the mismanagement of our human capital.

    His response to Dan about being critical of John’s selective libertarianism falls flat. Libertarianism is a clearly defined ideology. Republicanism, and Liberalism, as defined in an American political spectrum, is not. I know Democrats who are Anti-Choice, who are against Gay Marriage, who are fiscally conservative. I know some that are none of these things. I know a number of Republicans who could not be in the same room as one another. No party is going to embody any persons personal politics, other than the sheep.
    Libertarianism is different. It is an overarching ideology that is very specific on every count. John concedes as much in his post.

    There are issues where I agree with libertarians. Not surprisingly, those areas are where John and Terrence are most likely to disagree.

    I will say that I am torn on the issue of the legalization of drugs. On the one hand, I think that those who are going to have issues with drugs are going to have issues with drugs- legal or illegal. I don’t believe that drug policies offer a worthwhile ROI.
    At the same time, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with an outright decriminalization of cocaine and heroin, for example.
    My principles don’t jive with my emotions where the rubber meets the road. I’m reluctantly for decriminalization of drugs, but you won’t find me out defending it, per se…

    • I meant to point this out when Terrance initially said it, but I left my mind. Though crack cocaine and powder cocaine are both cocaine based, they are very different in the way your body responds. Crack cocaine is exponentially more physically and mentally addictive and the addiction takes hold much faster than its powder counterpart, which was taken into account when the consideration for sentencing guidelines were set.

  6. I’m not abreast of American minimum sentencing standards, but I wonder what the minimum sentence would be for heroin, as it seems to be the best corollary drug to crack.
    Any idea?

  7. Terrance H. says:

    Liberals cannot be blamed for the problems facing black americans. Not without accepting an equal amount of blame on the Conservative side of the fence.

    Referring to modern day liberals and conservatives, I think one can rest the blame almost entirely on the Left. Providing equal footing is one thing; facilitating a dependency quite another.

    That comment is entirely an ideological partisan dig by someone who thinks that the only thing that stands between America and Utopia is a Republican dictatorship.

    Not hardly. On more than one occasion I have repeated a Jesse Jackson line in response to something John or someone else has said. “It takes two wings to fly.” And I firmly believe it.

    [blockquote>His response to Dan about being critical of John’s selective libertarianism falls flat.

    No, it doesn’t.

    Libertarianism is different. It is an overarching ideology that is very specific on every count. John concedes as much in his post.

    I fundamentally disagree. At its core, libertarianism is an ideology that champions individual freedom, but that is not to say that the freedom should be unlimited. Even libertarians apply a cost/benefit analysis. To govern any other way is simply stupid.

    In any event, I’m glad we agree on the main points.

    Though crack cocaine and powder cocaine are both cocaine based, they are very different in the way your body responds. Crack cocaine is exponentially more physically and mentally addictive and the addiction takes hold much faster than its powder counterpart, which was taken into account when the consideration for sentencing guidelines were set.

    This isn’t really true, John. Your body responds differently because of the differing ways one consumes the drugs. Crack is typically smoked, while powder cocaine is not. But if you smoke powder cocaine, as some do, the effects are virtually indistinguishable. It also greatly depends on the material used to “cut” the drugs.

    So, unless you champion sentencing guidelines that are so specific as to put an incredible burden on our justice system, then you cannot reasonably support the disparity. You said before that you would go the other way with it. Instead of reducing the sentencing for crack, you would increase the sentencing for cocaine.

  8. I’m not a racist but more whites does drugs then blacks. I know this woman myself and yes she deserves the time off

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