Pubdate: Thu, 6 Mar 2008
Source: Huffington Post (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 HuffingtonPost com, Inc.
Author: Anthony Papa
Note: Anthony Papa is the author of "15 to Life" and a communications 
specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance Network
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


Does former President Bill Clinton want to become a drug policy reform

On its face, it would seem that way following President Clinton's
keynote speech at the University of Pennsylvania last week
commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report
that addressed the causes of racial disturbances in the 1960s. Clinton
admitted his administration's failure to end the racial disparities in
sentencing of powder and crack cocaine offenses.

He said he regretted not doing more about it, and that he would be
prepared to spend a significant portion of his life trying to make

President Clinton's comments came on the heels of historic changes
recently enacted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that gives judges
the ability to retroactively reduce the sentences of 20,000 crack
cocaine offenders.

The law went into effect on March 4, 2008 when 1,600 offenders became
immediately eligible for release and thousands of others would be
eligible in years to follow.

Criminal penalties for possession and sales of cocaine are

But the penalties for crack cocaine are more severe, despite the fact
that pharmacologically they are identical.

Under federal law, 500 grams of powdered cocaine is equivalent to five
grams of crack cocaine. Despite the majority of users being whites or
Hispanic, the majority of those incarcerated for crack cocaine crimes
are black.

The 100-to-1 sentencing disparity has been condemned by a wide array
of criminal justice and civil rights groups for its racially
discriminatory impact.

Some critics would be quick to say Clinton's statement is nothing more
than a political ploy to generate support for his wife's presidential
run and his new-found concern is too little too late. I would give
Clinton the benefit of the doubt and welcome him to tackle the tough
drug policy issues that exist.

This includes battling the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, which
incarcerate a majority of blacks excessively long sentences.

Out of the 12,000 or so drug prisoners in the state of New York, 91
percent are black and Latino. It makes sense for him to take interest
in this issue since the Clintons live in Chappaqua, New York, not far
from two maximum security prisons, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
and Sing Sing. Additionally, Clinton has his office headquartered in
Harlem, a community heavily affected by these drug laws.

Clinton should read the recently released report by Pew's Public
Safety Performance Project on incarceration rates.

It found that one in 15 black adults is incarcerated and also one in
nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is finding his way into
our gulags. Clinton can be a valuable asset to the drug policy reform
movement and help dismantle unfair drug laws that waste valuable tax
dollars and destroy lives.

Let's give him a chance to do right by New York's communities of
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake