Being Fair to Crack Dealers

The use and trafficking of crack have long been treated more harshly than the same offenses for powder cocaine. New federal sentencing guidelines aim to rectify that

TEK / Photo Researchers (left)

Rocks of crack cocaine and conventional cocaine powder.

Drug dealers are bad guys, but even they should be treated fairly. That's why advocates of sentencing reform are cheering a recent federal move to narrow the jaw-dropping disparity in sentences for trafficking in two versions of the same drug, cocaine. But it's way too early for them to be declaring victory.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which was created in 1984 to help ensure that people convicted of similar crimes end up with similar prison terms, has finally shortened its recommended penalties for crack cocaine. Crack offenders have traditionally been treated more...

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