The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal judges have the discretion to give “reasonably” shorter prison terms for crack-cocaine crimes to reduce the disparity with crimes involving cocaine powder.

The 7-2 ruling represents a victory for lawyers who argued that crack-cocaine offenders were unfairly targeted under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

Current federal penalties for selling 5 grams of crack cocaine can warrant the same prison sentence as dealing 500 grams of the powdered variety.

The especially harsh prison sentences for dealing crack were established as a way to get a handle on the crack epidemic that exploded in the late 1980’s. The hope was that if dealers knew they could potentially spend the rest of their lives behind bars for dealing crack, they would stop selling it.

The harsh laws may in some ways have helped to curb the crack epidemic, however, the program was largely a failure. We continue to build more and more prisons with no end in sight. We have locked thousands of 18 and 19 year old kids up for for 30, 40, 50+ years in prison for selling crack cocaine.

Not only is that incredibly unfair, but if they ever do get out they pose a significant risk to the community. A non-violent kid who ends up spending most of his adult life in prison does not have the necessary skills to live a normal and productive life on the outside.

What we are in fact doing is turning a misguided young person into a violent felon and then releasing him back into the community after a decade or two in prison.

The “war on drugs” is a joke, our prison system is broken, and something must be done. This Supreme Court ruling is at least one small step in the right direction.

-Chris Jones
The Hot Joints

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