WASHINGTON — A law passed by President Obama last year will now free close to 12,000 prisoners from across the country who were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences due to the possession of crack.
The lengthy prison sentences, which were criticized by many Black politicians and Civil Rights activists, were struck down last year in the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the disparity in sentences for both past convicts and future ones.
The disparity in sentences for crack versus powder cocaine had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. Under a law passed in the 1980s, a person convicted of crack possession got the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine. Five grams of crack, about the weight of five packets of Sweet N’Low, brought a mandatory five years behind bars; it took 500 grams of powdered cocaine to get the same sentence.