Attorney General Eric Holder and acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Thomas R. Kane testify before the U.S. Sentencing Commission. (Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has proposed, while testifying before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, to correct the disparity in sentencing between convicted powder cocaine and crack cocaine offenders by reducing the sentences of thousands of the latter, most of whom are Black, by at least three years.
In his testimony, Holder spoke to the differences in sentencing. He said, "Crack offenders— especially violent ones—should be punished. And the Justice Department will make every effort to prosecute them. However, as years of experience and study have shown, there is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders—a position that Congress overwhelmingly supported with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act."
A spokesperson from the non-profit, non-partisan Sentencing Project says the U.S. Sentencing Commission estimates that 12,000 federal prisoners would be eligible to apply for sentence reduction if the proposed guidelines are made retroactive.
The attorney general, however, has recommended that just 5,500 inmates that did not use weapons in the commission of their crimes and do not have long criminal records be released potentially later this year.
Since 1985, Black urban and rural communities across the nation have been under siege by crack dealers, and the attendant violence of that drug trade. And since that period, there has been criticism of the disproportionate sentences that mostly African-American and Hispanic drug dealers in the crack cocaine trade have received when compared to the sentences that whites in the powder cocaine business have received.