Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Praise for Jeff Sessions

I'm just as surprised as you are, but Alabama's junior U.S. senator has taken time away from dire warnings about immigrant hordes to promote a very sensible piece of crime legislation. Sessions' bill would substantially reduce the federal government's punishment disparity for crack possession versus cocaine possession from 100:1 to 20:1. Still a large difference, but a marked improvement.

Even though the sentencing imbalance's racially disparate impact is clear -- 84 percent of crack cases are against blacks, while only 30 percent of powder cocaine cases are -- courts repeatedly have rejected equal protection challenges to the greatly heightened punishment for crack, which is a cheaper form of cocaine that's far more popular than powder in poor urban areas.

For sure, studies show that crack is more addictive than powder, but little evidence exists to support the idea that it's 100 times more addictive. That makes the sentencing difference arbitrary and unreasonable, two adjectives that have no place in our laws. Best of luck to Sessions and his co-sponsors in their efforts to push this bill through Congress.


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