In America, the principles of fairness and equal treatment are fundamental to the rule of law. When we fall short of these principles, we lose confidence in our justice system and weaken the foundation of our country.
Since 1986, there has been a substantial difference in prison sentences for crack and powdered cocaine offenses, a disparity that has not only encouraged a misapplication of limited law enforcement resources, but has also been the source of unequal punishment for basically identical crimes.
The sentencing disparity was not created in bad faith. The spike in the use of crack in the 1980s was linked to violent crime, and lawmakers had serious concerns about the long-term impact of this highly addictive narcotic. At that time, experts believed that crack could chemically induce violent actions, thus possession of this drug was treated more harshly than other narcotics.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, supported by Republicans and Democrats, established stricter sentences for crack possession. The disparity was shockingly wide: the amount of crack cocaine needed to trigger the five- and 10-year mandatory sentences was 100 times less than that