The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses, saying they were punished under an unfair legal disparity that overwhelmingly hurt impoverished black communities.

All of the inmates had been imprisoned for at least 15 years, including six who were sentenced to life behind bars. Most will be released by April 17.

The prisoners likely would have received lighter jail terms if they had been sentenced under a law Obama signed three years ago that reduced sentencing disparities that once treated crack cocaine offenses more harshly than powder cocaine ones.

Obama said the six men and two women were jailed under an “unfair system” in which someone arrested with one gram of crack cocaine received the same sentencing as someone arrested with 100 grams of powdered cocaine, a ratio that was mitigated by the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act.

“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama said in a statement.

“Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”

The powerful American Civil Liberties Union rights group hailed Obama’s decision but stressed that he has one of the smallest pardon and commutation records of any U.S. president in recent history.

In five years in office, Obama had previously granted 39 pardons and commuted one sentence.

“This is one important step toward undoing the damage that extreme sentencing has done to so many in our criminal justice system,” said ACLU deputy legal director Vanita Gupta.

“We hope the president will continue to exercise his clemency powers and lend his support to systemic reform that will make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer and more humane.”

The 2010 fair sentencing measure reduced penalties such that someone arrested with one gram of crack now receives the same sentence as as someone arrested with 18 grams of powdered cocaine, and eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple crack cocaine possession.

Just a quarter of crack cocaine users are black, but 81 percent of people condemned for crack possession or dealing were African Americans in 2007, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Rep.Marjorie Taylor Greene

Outspoken MAGA firebrand and Christian nationalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — who unleashed a litany of falsehoods, including the Big Lie, at a GOP gala — is headed for splitsville after her husband of 27 years filed for divorce on Wednesday, citing an “irretrievably broken” marriage.

Keep reading... Show less

Ginni Thomas

Youtube Screenshot

Appearing behind closed doors in person for four hours with investigators from the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, far right-wing activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas reiterated her false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, calling it a “heist.” Thomas also insisted she has never discussed her work to overturn the election results with her husband, the person she publicly refers to as her “best friend,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has resisted calls to recuse himself from any cases surrounding the January 6 insurrection.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}