In the '80s, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin
thought he was leading the charge in the war on drugs. He advocated significantly stiffer sentences for possession of crack than for powder cocaine -- to the point that, to this day, it still takes 100 times as much powdered booger sugar to trigger the same amount of jail time for 5 grams worth of rock.
Shockingly, the law has lead to mass imprisonment and unequal justice for poor black folks, not to mention overcrowded prisons
(24,000 federal inmates 1980 to 209,000 in 2009), and absolutely no dent whatsoever made in keeping people off the drugs.
It's enough to ask: were the lawmakers on crack or something when they came up with that policy?
Kudos to Durbin, though. Now the senate's second-ranking Democrat, he has admitted he was wrong and is the co-sponsor and most vocal supporter of the Fair Sentencing Act
, a bill that would "increase the quantity of crack cocaine required to trigger a mandatory prison term, as well as stiffen penalties for large-scale drug traffickers and violent criminals."
Hooray, right? Not for 49-year-old Tommie Lee Hopkins
of East St. Louis. For him, it's too little too late.
Via the Belleville News-Democrat
An East St. Louis man was sentenced Friday to 5 years and 10 months in federal prison for crack cocaine distribution after he sold more than 5 grams of the substance to an informant.
Tommie Lee Hopkins, 49, was sentenced for two counts of distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base, in the form commonly known as "crack cocaine," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The violations occurred July 24, 2006 and Feb. 6, 2007. Hopkins pleaded guilty to the offense Aug. 12.
Hopkins' time in prison will be followed by four years' supervised release. He also will have to pay a $200 special assessment fee and $700 fine.
Had Hopkins been peddling plain old blow, it would've taken 500 grams of the stuff to get the 5+ year sentence. Instead, police had a snitch purchase just over 5 grams of crack in order to trigger the exact same mandatory minimum sentence Durbin is trying to change.
Granted, Hopkins is a crack dealer so it's hard to feel a whole lot of sympathy for the guy but still, it's not exactly liberty and justice for all, is it?