July 21, 2016
The Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected Attorney General Mukasey’s call to advance legislation undoing the Sentencing Commission’s reform of federal sentencing guidelines around crack cocaine, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Not only that, the LAT notes that Senator Patrick Leahy actually had the political cojones to call the AG’s tactics what they really are: fear-mongering. Reporter Sarah Wire of the LAT simply notes that “Leahy (D-Vt.) accused Mukasey of creating public fear that ‘dangerous drug offenders will be instantaneously and automatically set free to prey on hapless communities.’ “
Prof. Berman at the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog has some quotes from the hearing transcript, which also include Senator Kennedy stating that “We can’t let such scare tactics by the administration deter us from our goal of achieving fairness and legitimacy in the criminal justice system.”
The transcript of the written remarks from today’s hearing includes some lovely bits from U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert, who concedes that the crack guideline has had a “disparate impact on African-American offenders,” admits that “African-Americans constitute the vast majority of federal crack offenders,” but insists that “a variety of factors fully justify higher penalties for crack offenses.” Shappert was also quoted by PBS at the end of last year as saying that retroactive reforms would damage “the very communities that we’re trying to help bring back, fragile communities that have been ravaged by crack cocaine.”
What better way to “help” these “fragile” communities than by keeping substantial portions of them locked up in federal prison!