What’s the saying again? 10 steps forward, five steps back? Things like this happen all too commonly, so I not surprised. The New York Times said it best, “Unity was emerging on sentencing. Then came Jeff Sessions.” The US attorney general reinstated mandatory minimum sentencing two weeks ago and people are not too happy about it. It is a major issue, but in order for you to understand why, you need to know the history of mandatory minimum sentencing. Allow me to quickly break it down…
1970– There were 400,000 people incarcerated in the United States. President Nixon became president and he declared a “War on Drugs,” where he later increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies. In an interview with Harper Magazine, John Ehrlichman (Nixon’s former domestic policy) said, “You want too know what this was really all about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
1986- President Ronald Reagan turned the rhetorical “war on drugs” of President Nixon into a real one. Congress passed “mandatory minimum sentencing” for drugs with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
People who were caught with 5 grams or more of crack cocaine, would have a mandatory sentence of 5 years in prison. To receive the same sentence for powder cocaine, people needed to carry 500 grams or more of it. You needed to carry 100x more powder cocaine than you did crack, to receive the same mandatory sentencing. Okay, what’s the big deal? The big deal is crack and powder Cocaine are chemically the same thing! Crack is powder cocaine that has been processed with a base, such as baking soda, to remove the hydrochloride.
Why didn’t powder cocaine and crack cocaine have the same punishment? I do not know, but I will say this. Powder cocaine was extremely expensive and was (is) a fad among celebrities, politicians, and anyone else who was rich enough to afford it.
1990- The US incarceration rate was over 1 million. In other words, the number of people behind bars doubled in only 20 years.
2000- Thanks to the Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the Federal Crime Bill of 1994, there were 2 million prisoners in the US by the year 2000. Close to 900,000 of those prisoners were black. Yes, that’s almost half.
2010- President Obama signs the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which eliminated mandatory minimum sentencing. As a result, the Federal prison population dropped from 220,000 in 2013 to 188,797 as of this month, as per the Chicago Tribune. Thanks, Obama.
Which brings us to…
May 2017- Attorney General Jefferson Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects… reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations, says Rebecca Ruiz.
He willingly chose to put a system in place that targets minorities. This is the definition of systematic oppression. Here’s the oppressor…
Jefferson “Jeff” Sessions is your modern day slave-master. “Massa” Sessions reinstated a policy which resulted in almost HALF of our prison population being Black. Meanwhile, Black people only make up 14% on the US population.
The attorney general’s new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system…We should be treating our nation’s drug epidemic for what it is — a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy. -Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul (Rep.) definitely said it best. I believe, “Massa” Sessions had little to no reason to reinforce this policy. He either has a serious Napoleon Complex issue going on (and wanted to flex his Attorney General muscles) or he’s just straight up racist.
I feel I may need to apologize for my bluntness in this post. However, I will not apologize for my choice of words.
Dear Jefferson Sessions, this is not Law and Order. This is INJUSTICE.