It’s a historic change in standards in relation to Biden’s 1986 crime bill, which created a 100-to-1 difference between the amount of felony and the felony required to trigger long prison sentences. The law was passed shortly after an NBA player died of a cocaine-induced heart attack. Proponents of these differences have suggested that traders ofcrack addicts should face tougher penalties because crack produces a high and is highly addictive in small amounts.
Over the years, critics of the law have pointed out that it primarily targeted Black communities—despite studies showing that historically, most crack users were white or Hispanic. However, the majority of those convicted of crack crimes were Black.
In 2010, Congress tried to fix this discriminatory law by reducing the sentencing gap without actually closing it, creating an 18-to-1 difference between crack and drug; lawmakers made the change back in 2018 as part of the First Step Act, allowing people who had already served time in federal prisons to shorten their sentences.
The executive order announced by Garland this week is temporary. To make it permanent, Congress needs to take action, and it may be in order: The Equal Act, which would have completely eliminated the inconsistency of capital punishment, passed the House with bipartisan support last year, but then stalled. in the Senate. Republicans have supported other criminal justice reforms in the past, such as Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is pushing instead of a 2.5-to-1 difference.
Getting the bill through Congress would be important for another reason: Garland’s law only applies to new cases and doesn’t affect as many people as it might have a decade or two ago, given that federal cocaine prosecutions have dropped dramatically in recent years. . Lawmakers are the only ones who can roll back sentencing, potentially giving a lifeline to many people already behind bars because of the wrongful laws of the past.