Today, the internet was abuzz with the news of President Obama commuting the sentences of eight convicted criminals. Their crimes? Nonviolent crack cocaine offenses. Each prisoner had already served time of over fifteen years, and six of the eight prisoners were carrying out life sentences. In a statement, President Obama called the commutations a “step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.” After all, the offenders were sentenced prior to the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act and were casualties of a grossly disproportionate sentencing regime. Under this previous regime, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine was 100:1. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of people arrested for crack cocaine offenses were African Americans.
While it remains to be seen how these commuted sentences will be received, it is not hard to see the writing on the wall (just read the comments section of any of today’s articles). When the banks that brought the financial sector crumbling to its knees were given a pass (or a deferred prosecution agreement), we shrugged our shoulders and reasoned that banks are “too big to indict.” However, when our President attempts to retroactively apply the new sentencing regime and correct an injustice, we want to pump the brakes.
Not everyone deserves a second chance, it seems.
[photo by justice.gov]