Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice by Susan Easton and Christine Pipe

Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice by Susan Easton and Christine Pipe

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Due to the unfair sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine, despite the fact that the two are the same drug, just in different forms, the government endorsed a law to reduce the sentencing of those who were convicted of crack related offenses. Repealing past wrong doings seemed to be a hurdle initially for lawmakers, but ultimately inmates finally received some of the justice that they deserved. The disparity in sentencing was seen by many as to be a racial war, considering the fact that blacks typically used crack, and whites used powder cocaine. Even though they are in essence the same drug, just broken down into different forms.
The amount of jail time someone convicted for cocaine related charge was drastically shorter than the amount given to someone who dealt with crack. On August 3rd, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law. This is not the first law signed, but it is more extensive, and meets different criteria than the others. Unfortunately, there were several Acts produced before Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, but some failed to be introduced, and some only pacified the problem
With everything in life, we can work to fix injustices and a problem in society, but trying to fix what was wrong not only takes time, but also may be imperfect. As mentioned previously race played and still does play a large role in how crime is treated in the United States. This article explains how the racial disparity is not a coincidence and the article provides facts of the disparity, and what the Fair Sentencing Act does. The author begins the article by chronologically exploring the details of how the disparity began. The Anti- Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which was introduced in the Reagan-era, was responsible for the disparity. The Act stated that 1 gram of cocaine was equal to 100 grams of crack (Davis 2011). An extremely large difference. She ends the article explaining that despite the fact that there is a decrease in the ratio, it is still unfair. The Fair Sentencing Act only works to reduce the disparity and does not eliminate it completely (Davis 2011). While the ratio was once 100-1(crack to cocaine), the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 brought it down to 18-1.
Despite the fact that the Fair Sentencing Act is not 100% fair, it did work to provide many changes in the sentencing guidelines.

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One of the changes that occurred was no longer requiring a five-year mandatory sentence for those who possessed crack (WOLA).
In the book’ “Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice”, authors Susan Easton and Christine Piper state different practices used in the judicial field. The book hosted many interesting facts that can easily be overlooked when exploring this topic, but they are as important as some of the basic information concerning they reasons why repealing past laws and enforcing the Fair Sentencing Act was important. While it has been discussed before, whites and Hispanics constitute the majority of cocaine offenders (Easton, et al.). To no surprise, black young men in Texas had the highest penalties of all users. This could definitely be because of the fact that Texas is known to have strict laws, especially concerning drugs. Often times, non-violent blacks served more time than violent whites (American). The most interesting of the facts was the one that related urban areas to selling drugs. Since black males are more likely to populate urban cities, they are more likely to commit crimes near school zone, which could bring about more charges After thinking about the specifics of urban areas, it could also be concluded that due to the demographics, conspiracy is more likely to occur. Conspiracy is when more than one person is involved in a crime; which brings about more charges. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was a relief on prisons. Due to the overcrowding of jails and prison because of the economy, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 allows for more violent offenders to occupy jails, reducing the amount of those who had measly drug charges. (Easton, et al.).
In the article, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, the author explains the legislation created that lead up to the Fair Sentencing act, and provided some direct details of specific law. As briefly mentioned prior, in the 1980’s crack was deemed more dangerous than cocaine thus bringing stricter charges. After many failed attempts to change the law, FSA was surprisingly a success.
Bills spanning from at least 1993 to 2009 created by the United States Sentencing Commission had failed to be signed into law (Graham 2011).
One reason to reduce the sentencing was because the use and distribution of crack was on a decline (Graham 2011).
In 2011 FSA was applied to those who were sentenced before the law was signed (American). Over 12,000 people had the possibility of receiving a reduction in their sentence. With a whopping 85 percent of those individuals being black. Though there was a slight break, those who were sentenced are still under the mandatory minimums that were set before the Act was signed While this is a huge step, the ratio is still not 1: 1 as it should be (American).

The Amendment officially went into effect November 1, 2011.

Works Cited

American Civil Liberties Union (n.d.). Fair Sentencing Act | American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from

Davis, L. (2011). Rock, powder, sentencing - making disparate impact evidence relevant in crack cocaine sentencing. Journal Of Gender, Race And Justice, (2), 375. Retrieved from

Easton, S., & Piper, C. (2012). Sentencing and punishment: The quest for justice. Oxford University Press.

Graham, K. (2011). Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word: The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Crack, and Methamphetamine. University of Richmond Law Review, Forthcoming.

WOLA (2011, November 16). Breakthrough in U.S. Drug Sentencing Reform: The Fair Sentencing Act and the Unfinished Reform Agenda. Retrieved from

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