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27 S. Ill. U. L.J. 413 (2002-2003)
Amending the Sentencing Guidelines for Cocaine Offenses: The 100-to-1 Ratio Is Not as Cracked Up as Some Suggest

handle is hein.journals/siulj27 and id is 441 raw text is: AMENDING THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES FOR
Elizabeth Tison
From no other governmental institution is so much expected as from the
American system of justice. Covered extensively by the media, monitored
closely by the public at large and administered by proponents of differing
philosophies, our system always has and always will be subject to debate,
both within and without the ranks of those who administer it. At the pinnacle
of that debate stands the process of sentencing. Because the sentencing
process defines our values in a variety of ways, everyone has a vested interest
in it. Therefore, legislators and practitioners have known for a long time that
the sentencing decision is of such magnitude that it should not be rendered
without some common basis in logic and reason if fairness is to prevail.'
For years, extensive criticism has plagued the federal sentencing policy
for cocaine offenses. The current approach to sentencing cocaine offenses has
been challenged by public officials, private citizens, criminal justice
practitioners, researchers, and interest groups.2
In May, 2002, the United States Sentencing Commission issued a report
to Congress that was meant to contribute to the ongoing assessment of federal
crack cocaine sentencing policies. The report recommended several changes
to the current crack cocaine sentencing policies and based those
recommendations on new data and statistics.
This was not the Commission's first effort to change the rules on crack,
and it treaded very carefully. In 1995, it proposed changes in the guidelines'
treatment of cocaine base, but Congress rejected the proposed amendment by
passing a statute that provided considerations to be taken into account in any
future proposal for modifying the guidelines' treatment of crack offenses.
Among other things, Congress specified that offenses involving equal weights
of crack and powder cocaine should not receive equal punishment, and that
stricter sentences should be imposed on crack defendants who murder or
injure others or who use firearms or other dangerous weapons. The
1.  Thomas N. Whiteside, The Reality of Federal Sentencing: Beyond the Criticism, 91 Nw. U. L REV.
1574 (1997).
2.  Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy, 10 Fed. Sentencing Rep. (Vera
Inst. of Just.) No. 4, at 184 (1998).


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