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Race and Crack Cocaine Offenses: Correcting a Troubling Injustice Post-Booker
By Marcia G. Shein
Since 1987, and the promulgation of the federal Sentencing
Guidelines, there has been an egregious sentencing disparity between
crack and powder cocaine offenses. Courts and defense attorneys
throughout the country have asserted that the disparity has
disproportionately affected minorities. These draconian crack cocaine
sentences offer little hope for rehabilitation and provide neither just
nor reasonable punishment.
A person with two kilos of crack cocaine can receive a life sentence
while that same person in a powder cocaine offense would only receive a
sentence of five to six years in custody.1 A life sentence,
with no hope for release, for a first offender in a nonviolent crack
cocaine offense takes aim at the poor, in effect punishing minorities
who tend to be the less advantaged in our society. Since Booker,2 the
door is once again open to argue the unreasonableness of a sentencing
scheme that creates disparity between crack and powder cocaine
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