Equity in Sentencing

Essay by anesheiwatUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2008

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Equity is defined as the sentencing principle that similar crimes and similar criminals should be treated alike. (Frank Schmalleger, 2007)Equity in sentencing has been an issue for quite a while. It has sparked heated discussions in the U.S. Congress, as well as arguments among community members. Supporters of equity in sentencing try to inspire changes to our current legislation, and its opponents are attempting to abolish it in its entirety.

The Federal Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created the guidelines for statutory mandatory minimum penalties currently effective in the federal drug trafficking crimes and also established a 100-to-1 drug quantities ratio between crack and powdered cocaine offenses for sentencing purposes. (Frank Schmalleger, 2007) This ratio was based on the assumption that crack cocaine is more dangerous than powdered cocaine, it is less expensive and may lead to violent crimes and addiction of youths and children. All drug addictions including prescription, present an enormous and difficult problem to contain.

The difference in sentencing under the current law for possession of five grams of crack cocaine is a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison, possession of any quantity of other controlled substance by a first offender yields a maximum of one year in prison. I do not believe that this is justice.

The issues with federal sentencing on drug trafficking and drug associated crimes became apparent. As a result the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created the United States Sentencing Commission, in efforts to end the disparities and widely used discretion of federal trial judges. The commission was charged with changing and formulating the national sentencing guidelines. These are subject to change; the commission may submit changes to Congress each year.

In the, 2007 Report to Congress on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy, the USSC points outlines the many differences...