Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

The Former Federal Prosecutor’s Case for Criminal Justice Reform

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The result of the new law was startling: Thousands of black men received extraordinarily long sentences, yet at the same time, crack prices fell, indicating that supply was growing. In other words, we achieved mass incarceration while failing to address the underlying problem. We were imprisoning the wrong people. Crack is made out of powder cocaine and usually not “rocked up” until the street dealer handles it. Thus, the least culpable and most easily replaceable parts of the supply chain were the ones locked up.

An equivalent plan would be to try to close down America’s Walmarts by arresting the greeters or stock boys.

Mark Osler, former assistant U.S. attorney and professor at Baylor Law School, on the 100:1 crack-cocaine sentencing disparity. Last week, Congress voted to reduce the disparity to 18:1.

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