Jul 29 2010
Jamie Laquan Beall, a 29 year old man in Charlestown, South Carolina, was just sentenced to more than 12 years in prison this week for distribution of crack cocaine. The timing of his sentence is ironic given that the House of Representatives just passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which aims to significantly reduce the differences in sentencing between crack and powdered cocaine convictions. For decades, those convicted for possession or distribution of crack cocaine, mostly Black Americans, were given disproportionately higher sentences than for powdered cocaine which result primarily in convictions for Whites. As of now, someone convicted of crack cocaine possession gets the same length of sentence as someone with 100 times the amount of powder cocaine possession, resulting in an enormous racial disparity in sentencing. Additionally, a mandatory minimum sentencing law required that a person in possession of as little as 5 grams of crack cocaine would have to be sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison. Now, after years of organizing against sentencing disparity and the mandatory minimum sentencing, racial justice groups can claim a small victory with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. While the bill is not retroactive or entirely fair, it does reduce the sentencing disparity based on amounts of possession to 18 to 1 and also eliminates the mandatory 5 year sentence. The US Senate passed the bill in March. It now heads to the desk of President Obama for his signature.
GUEST: Julie Stewart, Founder and President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Find out more at www.famm.org.