Criminal Justice

Sentences for Crack Cocaine Crimes to Track Powder Cocaine Penalties, Under New Law

A legal system that has been decried as unfair for harshly punishing largely black defendants for crimes involving relatively small amounts of crack cocaine while other defendants routinely escape similar punishment for crimes involving larger amounts of powder cocaine is on the verge of amendment.

With the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act by Congress today, the measure now goes to President Barack Obama for an expected signature. It will then operate to increase the amount of crack cocaine required for punishment equivalent to what is meted out to those who violate drug laws concerning powder cocaine, reports the New York Times.

ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm praised the bipartisan effort to enact the new law, calling it “while imperfect, a strong step forward toward fairness and rationality.” In a written statement, she also notes that “precious federal resources can be refocused on major drug trafficking and traffickers, rather than on users and low-level street corner offenses better handled at the state and local level.”

By reducing sentences of crack cocaine offenders, the law is expected to save the federal prison system some $42 million over five years, the Times reports.

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