Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eliminating Racist Crack Penalties

Today has been a busy day. I haven't read Strickland's speech yet, so you'll have to go elsewhere for now to hear about that, but with everything else going on, you might end up missing a PD Metro bit on SB 73.

Four State Senators are sponsoring SB 73, which would amend Ohio sentencing rules such that there would no longer be a distinction between powder and rock (crack) cocaine. It's about time. Currently, most powder arrests are of whites, and most crack arrests are of African Americans. Also currently, sentencing rules are orders of magnitude more harsh for crack cocaine offenses. The message is and has been that White drug users/dealers are somehow less dangerous to society. The big reason these sentencing disparities persist is that a legislature either has to dramatically increase powder cocaine sentences or dramatically reduce crack cocaine sentences. Political gamesmanship has already given draconian sentences to low-level drug users, so increasing sentences isn't really great policy, and proposing a reduction in crack cocaine penalties takes a whole lot more intestinal fortitude than most politicians have.

So, who's showing the guts? Two senators from Cleveland, and two from Central Ohio. You might guess that Ray Miller, D-Columbus is one of those Senators, and you'd be right. If you guessed that David Goodman, R-New Albany, was the other, you're either a better guesser than I am or you've deduced that his sponsorship is what got me to blog about SB 73.

Back in the day, I put up a headline that said "Liberal Bloggers Love Goodman's Position on Gay Marriage." During an election season, I didn't want to let him have it both ways. I have no urge to give Mr. Goodman any grief over this one, though. Right now, it's not an election season and the sponsorship takes guts even coming from Mr. Miller, a Progressive in a safely liberal district. It's the right thing to do, and as a constituent, I applaud Mr. Goodman's sponsorship of the bill.

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