Repairing Injustice in the War on Drugs
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Congress has relaxed overly harsh and discriminatory
penalties for crack, as opposed to powder cocaine. But federal prisons
are still full of blacks and whites serving different sentences for the
same crimes. Should sentencing guidelines be made retroactive? Would
that lead to the sudden release of 20,000 prisoners, crowding the
courts and increasing crime? Also, a transit strike in France, and some big decisions for Michael Mukasey, the new Attorney General. Were Blackwater guards unjustified in killing Iraqi civilians? Can they be prosecuted?
Photo: Metropolitan Drug Commission
French Transit Workers' Strike Tests Sarkozy's Power ()
Labor unions tried to paralyze France today with a transit strike. It's a direct challenge to the new President, Nicola Sarkozy who is trying to succeed at reforms where his predecessors have failed. David Gauthier-Villars reports from Paris for the Wall Street Journal.
- David Gauthier-Villars: Reporter, Wall Street Journal
Mandatory Sentencing in the War on Drugs ()
Federal laws passed in the 1980's provided the same prison sentence for dealing in five grams of crack cocaine as for 500 grams of powder, a ratio of 100-to-1. But it turned out that the so-called "crack epidemic" never happened, and the Journal of the American Medical Association now says that crack is not more addictive than powder or more likely to lead to violence after all. But crack is used more often by African Americans, which means that federal prisons are crowded with black prisoners doing more time than whites for essentially the same crimes. Two weeks ago, the House and the Senate allowed new guidelines that make sentences for crack commensurate with those for powder cocaine. Should the change be made retroactive? Would 20,000 criminals be released all at once? We'll hear about the ongoing debate at the US Sentencing Commission.
- Darryl Fears: Reporter, Washington Post
- Marc Mauer: Executive Director, Sentencing Project
- Tim Heaphy: former Federal Prosecutor, US Justice Department
- Margaret Colgate Love: former Pardon Attorney, Justice Department
Will Blackwater Guards Be Prosecuted for Killing Iraqi Civilians? ()
On September 15, Blackwater personnel guarding a State Department convoy killed 17 Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad. The guards have insisted they used their weapons in self-defense after being fired on first by civilians. Today's New York Times reports that FBI investigators have found the guards were unjustified in killing of 14 of the 17. The Times cites unnamed civilian and military officials as saying that the guards violated deadly force rules covering contractors in Iraq. If the report is correct, the new Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, may have to decide whether to prosecute. Lawyer and law professor Kevin Lanigan served as a US Army judge advocate in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Kevin Lanigan: former Judge Advocate, US Army Reserve
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