U.S. Sentencing Commission recommends lowering crack penalities

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which makes sentencing guidelines for federal offenses and recommends changes to Congress, recommended that penalties for crack cocaine offenses be lowered to the same level as for offenses involving powder cocaine.

The commission noted that although the two drugs are identical in effects, penalties for crack cocaine possession and dealing are many times higher than for similar powder cocaine offenses. Powder cocaine is used more often by whites, while crack cocaine is more often used by blacks, leading to huge racial disparities in sentencing for similar offenses.

The U.S. Congress rejected the recommendation in October 1995.

The crack/powder cocaine discrepancy is yet more proof of the racial motivation behind drug prohibition.

Prison Riots

On October 19, 1995, prisoners in three federal prisons rioted after the U.S. Congress rejected the sentencing commission recommendation to lower crack cocaine penalties.

Thirteen people were injured in the Talladega, Alabama riot, which caused $1 million in damage from fires and vandalism. Memphis, Tennessee prisoners broke windows, vandalized buildings and started small fires. Allenwood, Pennsylvania prisoners vandalized buildings.

On October 20, the U.S. Department of Justice declared a lockdown at federal prisons nationwide. Inmates at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois, seized control of a housing unit when guards tried to impose the lockdown. At least three staff members suffered minor injuries.

Source: October 20, 1995, Associated Press article, "Riots at three federal prisons, federal lockdown ordered."