Author Topic: Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence  (Read 67 times)

westcoastcavalier

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Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence
« on: April 03, 2003, 10:45:44 AM »
C-Walker tell me why America's laws on drug use differ from minorities (usually more harsh) and Whites (usually a slap on the wrist)?
America The Beautiful?




Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence

By Justin Kendall



 
   
 Crack controlled Nick Bostick's life. Now, clean and sober, he works to help people at Urban Dreams.  
 
Why crack and powder cocaine penalties differ in Iowa, and what’s being done to change them.

Nick Bostick flirted with the White Lady on the streets of Baltimore. From the moment his lips pressed against the crack pipe and he inhaled, she became his addiction.

At the height of the crack cocaine explosion in the mid-'80s, Nick was 35 years old and using crack daily, feeding an addiction that would span 1985-87. He experienced a similar explosion from every pipe he smoked.

"How can you get orgasm, Fourth of July and euphoria all in one bang?" he asks. "This has got to be wonderful. I've got to do this again. Who wouldn't want to go to paradise one more time?"

Crack was the fast food of drugs. A fistful of dollars equaled an instant high. Nick was high all the time, but he didn't seek out crack. He was looking to score some marijuana, but his dealer was out.

"Try this," the dealer said, offering him his first hit of crack. "See what you think of this."

Nick put it in a pipe and inhaled. His addiction was instantaneous. Enchanted in the rush of $10 hits, he tried in vain to recapture his first high.

"Every time you spend whatever you spend, whether you throw the house in the pipe or your car or your clothes or your bank account, you're really after that first hit," he says.

Nick's chemical dependency led him to Des Moines two years ago. Although he had been clean for more than a decade, he needed to flee the place where his addiction began.

Ironically, his escape brought him to a state that punishes crack offenders more severely than any other in the country. However, Iowa lawmakers are contemplating changes in the law, which civil libertarians, defense attorneys and politicians have criticized for its racially biased punishments.

Iowa: Built sentencing tough

Iowa is the only state with a 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio, meaning crack offenders generally receive harsher sentences than powder cocaine offenders for equal amounts of the two drugs, the exception being for very small amounts of the substances.

Civil libertarians, defense attorneys and politicians base their arguments for sentencing reform on two key points: that crack and powder cocaine are basically the same drug and that the current difference in sentencing is racially prejudiced.

"If you were to take a blood sample of someone who ingested coke and another [who smoked] crack, they'd be the same," says attorney Bill Kutmus. "You couldn't tell the difference. It's still cocaine, but the sentences are disparate."

Crack is more addictive than powder cocaine, says Dr. Dennis Weis, medical director of the Powell Chemical Dependency Center at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. The drug goes straight to the brain, so the high takes hold in seconds and is more intense than powder cocaine highs.

"You're getting a tremendous amount of drug in a short amount of time," Weis says.

A crack high doesn't last as long as one from snorting powder cocaine, he adds. The drug activates over time. However, injecting cocaine, which goes through the heart and to the brain, hits almost as fast as crack.

Crack tends to be the drug of choice of African-Americans, whereas Caucasians prefer powder cocaine. Most cite price as the reason: Crack is cheap; coke is expensive. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reports that about 85 percent of federal crack cocaine offenders in 2000 were black.

"What we have created is a generation of young kids, particularly African-American, who have felony careers and have long prison sentences that they are facing simply because of their choice of drug," says Alfredo Parrish, a Des Moines criminal defense attorney. "The easiest people to arrest are the people standing on the corner selling crack cocaine as opposed to the people sitting back in their offices having community college parties with marijuana."

Iowa legislators are considering a bill that would reduce the quantity ratio from 100-to-1 to 10-to-1. The bill passed the Senate and could reach the floor this week, says Sen. Don Redfern, a Cedar Falls Republican.

The Iowa County Attorneys Association proposed the change, saying a 10-to-1 is a more accurate standard. "There's no perfect formula that 'x' ounces of one equal 'y' ounces of another, and therefore the same penalty," says Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the County Attorneys Association. "But in an attempt to recognize that the disparity was too great, ... we've made the proposal to reduce those differences to 10-to-1."

Under the proposed legislation, the quantity of crack needed to reach a C felony would double. Quantity levels would remain the same for B felonies and special B felonies. However, powder cocaine amounts would be lowered in the three felony categories to meet the 10-to-1 ratio, meaning lesser amounts of powder would trigger greater penalties.

The Iowa Civil Liberties Union is still analyzing the proposed new law, but the group says the bill isn't pure sentencing reform. The ICLU wants the ratio totally equal, says Marty Ryan, the ICLU's legislative director.

Changing the laws would take political courage, says Ben Stone, executive director of the ICLU. And courage is lacking.

"Once you put a tough penalty on drugs in place, politicians are petrified of the prospects of reducing it," Stone says, "because their opponents have a nice sound bite to attack them with in a campaign."

Sally Frank of the Drake Legal Clinic agrees.

"Generally, what happens is when the drugs get on the streets is when suddenly legislators start taking it more seriously," she says.

Rise of the scourge

A single death set off the crack cocaine frenzy. The death of basketball player Len Bias in 1986 demonized crack cocaine. Two days after the Boston Celtics drafted him with the second pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Bias, 22, was found dead of an apparent crack overdose.

Stricter penalties for crack followed Bias' death. However, powder cocaine was later found to be the culprit.

The fear and hysteria surrounding crack use led the drug to be labeled "the scourge of the inner city." The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created mandatory minimum penalties for federal drug trafficking offenses. The 100-to-1 disparity was born.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has challenged the federal law's validity numerous times, but the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the statute.

In May 2002, the Sentencing Commission released a report on cocaine sentencing, recommending changes in the mandatory minimum sentencing schemes, abolishing mandatory minimums for simple possession of crack and retaining the powder cocaine levels.

The U.S. Department of Justice disagrees with the commission. The department supports the current crack cocaine sentencing laws and calls for stiffening powder cocaine laws.

At a hearing on federal cocaine sentencing in May 2002, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, denounced the disparity. "This disparate impact on African-Americans would be troubling enough if we believed our cocaine sentencing policy was working," he said. "But it is particularly disturbing when one considers that the penalties Congress created in 1986 have proven poorly suited to the concerns Congress sought to address."

Leahy quoted President George W. Bush, who days before taking office said the crack cocaine/powder cocaine disparity should be eliminated and the sentences should be equal.

The Bush administration has since backed away from that position, says Mark Mower, the assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group.

With changes possibly on the way in Iowa law, Nick has also undergone a transformation. Now 52, he hasn't used crack cocaine for 16 years. He works for state Rep. Wayne Ford at Urban Dreams on Des Moines’ Near North Side. He reflects on his abuse as a learning experience wrought with lost opportunities.

You lose family, friends, time, money and energy, and some of it is irreplaceable, Nick says. "If you have any value of life, you begin to be concerned about the quality of your life," he says, "which causes you to change."

Working with Ford helps him assist members of the community who are "outside of the box" and forsaken by the mainstream - just like he was.

"It allows me to focus on my better self," he says. "I want to improve on a daily basis and being here at Urban Dreams allows me that opportunity to improve, to be helpful and to be useful to the community."
 

Real American

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Re:Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2003, 02:02:27 PM »
C-Walker tell me why America's laws on drug use differ from minorities (usually more harsh) and Whites (usually a slap on the wrist)?
America The Beautiful?

The drug laws don't differ between minorities and whites, they differ between crack and powder cocaine. The reason is because crack cocaine was as epidemic that completely devestated inner cities when it was introduced in the 1980's. It led to tons of violence and crime and resulted in complete chaos and destruction for alot of neighborhoods. So in response the authorities ended up creating stiffer penalties for people who sell crack cocaine in an effort to stop this. Maybe the laws should be changed so that crack and powder cocaine sentencing are the same, I don't know.

LOL, why did you come up with this topic out of the blue and address it to me?
 

7even

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Re:Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2003, 02:31:53 PM »
I suppose we got 2 new friends  :D
Cause I don't care where I belong no more
What we share or not I will ignore
And I won't waste my time fitting in
Cause I don't think contrast is a sin
No, it's not a sin
 

Damon X from ATL

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Re:Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2003, 03:47:30 PM »
What's the difference between crack and powder cocaine?

Then again what's the difference between cucumbers and pickles? Just because they are manufactured different, they still have the same origin. But I guess that's the difference between those who benefit due to racial background.
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westcoastcavalier

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Re:Cracking the eight ball's unfair sentence
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2003, 10:58:25 AM »
C-Walker tell me why America's laws on drug use differ from minorities (usually more harsh) and Whites (usually a slap on the wrist)?
America The Beautiful?

The drug laws don't differ between minorities and whites, they differ between crack and powder cocaine. The reason is because crack cocaine was as epidemic that completely devestated inner cities when it was introduced in the 1980's. It led to tons of violence and crime and resulted in complete chaos and destruction for alot of neighborhoods. So in response the authorities ended up creating stiffer penalties for people who sell crack cocaine in an effort to stop this. Maybe the laws should be changed so that crack and powder cocaine sentencing are the same, I don't know.

LOL, why did you come up with this topic out of the blue and address it to me?

Well since you post articles showing the "kinder and gentler" side of America and Christian ethics, I thought that since you were locked away in the matrix, I would show you what really is going on in the U.S. Also, the problem with you and those who make laws is that they lack common sense. Crack and powder cocaine is the same, no matter how you change it's composition. Oranges and Orange juice are not two different entities. I thought that was just commonsense, but sense isn't common when it comes to Hip-Hop Patriots.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2003, 10:58:51 AM by westcoastcavalier »