Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sit Down...Jeff Sessions Does Something Good

I often have pleasant dreams about Senator Jeff Sessions spontaneously combusting live on T.V. and I consider him an embarassment to the great state of Alabama in all ways. But, today I am going to say something good. Sit down and enjoy it because it is likely the only good thing you will ever hear me say about Sir Sessions.

For the record, this bill does not go far enough. People who simply use cocaine or crack cocaine and do not bother anyone while using do not belong in jail any more than pot smokers do. Jail and prison are not the solution to any sort of drug use issue.

Sessions revives plan to adjust cocaine sentencing
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
News Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON - Mandatory prison terms for crack and powder cocaine offenders, now vastly different, would be brought more in line in legislation that U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions revived Tuesday, five years after he first tried to pass it.

Under federal sentences prescribed by Congress, someone automatically goes to prison for 10 years for having 5,000 grams of powder cocaine; the same sentence is triggered at only 50 grams of crack. Similarly, 500 grams of powder brings five years, while it only takes 5 grams of crack. The 100:1 ratio has been labeled unjust, unfair and discriminatory.

"We've had lots of concerns and complaints about that, and I think they're legitimate," said Sessions, an Alabama Republican and former state and federal prosecutor.

Sessions' bill would increase the amount of crack and decrease the amount of powder that trigger the mandatory sentences, dropping it to a 20:1 disparity. For example, the legislation would lower the 10-year sentence for powder to 4,000 grams and increase the crack to 200 grams.

"I think it's the right balance. I believe it would improve the sentencing guidelines, create more integrity in the system and create more public confidence in the system," Sessions said in a news conference.

Sessions was joined by a bipartisan group of senators, all of whom are also former state attorneys general: Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark; John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

Pryor said the current system discriminates against minorities, who more often use the cheaper and more addictive crack form of the drug. In 2000, 84 percent of crack cases were against blacks, 9 percent Hispanics and 5 percent whites, while powder offenders were 30 percent black, 50 percent Hispanic and 17 percent white, he said.

"Our criminal justice system should be fair and consistent," Pryor said.

Sessions said it has been an unpopular bill. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice called the current crack sentences appropriate and would endorse only adjusting the trigger amounts for powder. Last year, the newly nominated U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Sessions during his confirmation hearing only that he would consider the legislation.

No comments: