Social Issues Essay

3049 WordsJun 2, 200913 Pages
Federal Crack Vs. Powder Cocaine Sentencing Guidelines: Why poor and minority populations are being denied their 14th amendment rights. Introduction to the Problem, Overview and History of the Crack Cocaine Epidemic With the explosion of crack cocaine during the early 1980’s came a whirlwind of complications for society as a whole and the African American community in particular. This new, inexpensive version of cocaine, made the drug readily available to an entirely new social class. In doing so it received massive media attention labeling the drug as hyper-addictive and violence inducing. Due in part to the media propaganda, congress was forced into action early on in the epidemic. In 1986 as well as 1988 congress passed federal sentencing legislation creating quantity guidelines to be used when sentencing federal crack and powder cocaine defendants. That ratio was set at 100 to 1 respectively and is still in effect today, meaning that in order to receive an equal sentence in terms of time served for cocaine as opposed to crack, you would need 100 times the amount of drugs. Furthermore, crack is the only drug with a mandatory prison term for first offense simple possession. Because the two drugs are pharmacologically identical, the assumption is that the current ratio is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the equal protection as well as the due process clauses under the 14th amendment. However, being a desperate impact case, it has been difficult to have the courts rule in favor of a reduction of the ratio because of the difficulty of proving that a “discriminatory intent” exists on behalf of lawmakers (Coyle, 2002). The controversy however lies much deeper than one set of federal sentencing guidelines. Due mainly to the social classification of people into groups which we then call race, it exists within a

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