Newswire : Supreme Court ruled against lowering sentences for crack cocaine convictions

Supreme Court building

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

On Monday, June 14, the Supreme Court ruled that those convicted of possessing small amounts of crack cocaine are prohibited from seeking sentence reductions. Activists complained that the ruling is just another slap in the face to minority defendants who were disproportionately sentenced to lengthy prison sentences during the 1980s crack epidemic. Congress passed laws in the 1980s in response to the crack epidemic that mandated that anyone arrested and convicted for possessing small amounts of crack would face sentences as long as someone caught with heavier weights of powder cocaine. African Americans and Latinos found possessing small amounts of crack received sentences longer than White suspects who had power cocaine. “This is still White America, and the Supreme Court reflects this ‘White privilege’ mindset,” stated Tremaine Powell, an Alexandria, Va., resident who recently was released after a 15-year-to-life sentence for crack cocaine possession. “I’m on probation for the rest of my life,” Powell complained. “Some White Wall Street executive caught with zip-lock bags full of cocaine only gets probation.” Tarahrick Terry, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, brought the case to the Supreme Court. Terry served a little more than 15 years for possessing less than 4 grams of crack cocaine, which reports noted weighs about the same as four paper clips. Terry sought relief from his sentence under the First Step Act, but a lower court ruled that the law did not apply to low-level offenses. In December of 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, and the law was viewed as a measure to correct the injustice tied to crack cocaine sentences and other criminal activity that otherwise should not have led to long prison terms. According to the nonprofit Red Restorative Justice Program, the goal of the law was to “give deserving prisoners the opportunity to get a shortened sentence for positive behavior and job training and giving judges and juries the power that the Constitution intended to grant them in sentencing.”

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