... the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones, and so it is with
William Jefferson Clinton
a reprehensible policy
Justice Demands a Remedy - not an Apology or Remorse
Equal Enforcement is the air that breathes life into Equal Protection under law Eric LaMont Gregory
It has been five years since William Jefferson Clinton pledged on his sacred honor to devote himself to remedy his failure to see that the laws were equally and faithfully enforced
"I am not going to let anyone who peddles drugs get the idea that the cost of doing business is going down," Clinton stated in 1995, nullifying a plan by the US Sentencing Commission to make punishments the same for crack cocaine and powdered cocaine In reality, the Clinton policy carried a caveat to what he wanted anyone who peddles drugs to know - that is, unless you are non-African American and are caught with less than four ounces of powder cocaine, an amount 100 times greater than would send an American of African origin to jail -
It was this decision by Clinton that led largely to the discrepancy between Americans of African origin and non-African American incarceration rates for drug offences in the United States. While some Americans used drugs with impunity and their Pell grants to attend college to become liberal professionals, others suffered the full weight of legal process, lost their right to grants for education, employment and continue to suffer to this day. The war on drug crime was a war on some Americans and not others.
Inequality before the law is un-American.
The facts do not make very comfortable reading, especially for those who believe in the constitutional requirement that the law be equally and faithfully enforced. And, that judges must be vigilant to ensure that impermissible prosecutorial biases do not remain hidden in files kept from public view.
Although there is no evidence of a racial anomaly in terms of drug use, nevertheless African Americans account for more than 80 percent of those convicted of drug crimes; Americans of European origin account for less than 5 percent.
African Americans receive longer sentences for crack cocaine crimes than European Americans do for powder-cocaine crimes. Federal law for years has provided much heavier sentences for crimes that involve crack cocaine, thus, not only creating a disparity in the number of African Americans incarcerated for drug offences, but assuring that those rates would not be mirrored in the European American community, where possession of 100 times as much powered cocaine was for all intents and purposes de-criminalized, and Clinton's signature in 1995 assured the disparity would be maintained.
Therefore, for the last 20 years the war on drugs has incarcerated 40 African Americans for possessing 1 gram of crack cocaine, while only 1 non-African American was incarcerated. But, that individual had to possess more than four ounces, over 100 grams, of powdered cocaine. The result, although only one in six of the general population, there are five Americans of African origin in prison for every one non-African American.
Over the last 20 years a cocaine culture thrived in America, so much so that 90 percent of paper money circulating in US cities contains traces of cocaine and spurred a drug cartel industry that has cost the lives of over 55,000 people south of our border to determine who will control the cocaine trade to the United States from Mexico.
The amount of drug money circulating in ourbanking system is a significant percentage of our GDP.
American cocaine users had to possess thousands of dollars of the powdered form of the drug before risking arrest and incarceration, while ten dollars of the crack form could get an African American a five-year prison sentence. Our prisons are filled with crack and marijuana users, while the powdered cocaine users went to Harvard, Wall Street and into the highest levels of government.
The punishment difference of 100: 1 works this way - crimes involving 1 gram of crack cocaine get the same mandatory sentences equal to crimes involving 100 grams of powder. And, this is the system of justice - the William Jefferson Clinton legacy.
After a study of the sentencing differences and their effect on African Americans, the federal Sentencing Commission decided to make sentencing equal for crack and powdered cocaine crimes, thus acknowledging the fact that in terms of composition, use, and effects, the drugs were one and the same, pharmacologically, but not in law.
Congress passed a bill to block the Sentencing Commission's plan of equal enforcement from going into effect, and Clinton's signature made the bill a law. And, with his signature, President Clinton breached the constitutional provision that the executive faithfully and equally enforce the law.
15 years later, William Jefferson Clinton acknowledged that his administration failed to end the disparity between the criminal penalties for the possession and sale of powder as opposed to crack cocaine, notwithstanding the fact that their composition, use, and effects are identical - they are one and the same drug.
In 2010, Clinton acknowledged that his administration, the executive branch of our national government charged with the responsibility of seeing that the laws are faithfully and equally enforced, should have done something about the disparity.
Clinton went on to say that he was prepared to spend a significant portion of the remainder of his life trying to make amends for his failure to act.
A belief in the basic goodness of every individual suggests that Clinton’s statement of remorse ought to be accepted as both honest and sincere. At the same time, a belief in the constitution and the rule of law provides that equal protection under law exists, only when there is equal enforcement of the law.
Therefore, a disparity in either enforcement or protection is unconstitutional, inherently.
The most important question to ask of William Jefferson Clinton is how he intends to make amends?
Perhaps Clinton could champion the review board approach and lobby the current President to impanel a review board under the executive power of clemency, as President Ford convened in 1974.
There is considerable support for an independent clemency board. If properly constituted outside of both the OPA and the DOJ, an independent, unbiased, efficient, and transparent panel provides a way for thousands of federal crack offenders to attain the fairer sentences available to them under current legislation and recent court rulings.
It is hoped that Clinton will consider the fact that the highly discriminatory 100-to-1 powder/crack cocaine ratio has left a legacy of injustice which he helped to perpetuate. And now, perhaps Clinton will urge the current President to set up a clemency board to give justice where justice so far has been denied.
William Jefferson Clinton, perhaps a visit to the White House and a simple statement like - President Obama, tear down this wall - will be enough to get him to do what you should have done while in office.
President Gerald Ford used his clemency powers, in part, to bring closure to the bitter legacy of an America divided over the morality of the Viet Nam War - he created a clemency program to allow the young men who were 'convicted, charged, investigated or still sought for violations of the Military Selective Service Act or of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to contribute a share to the rebuilding of peace among ourselves and with all nations'. Ford issued a proclamation and executive order establishing a nine member Presidential Clemency Board to oversee the case review program. Ford asked his former congressional colleague Charles Goodell to chair that board.
The Presidential Clemency Board handled applications for clemency on a case‑by‑case basis. As the number of applications grew from 850 in early 1975 to 21,500 by the deadline, the President authorized nine additional board members and a dramatic increase in staff to keep the work on schedule. The PCB finished its work in September 1975 and turned over all incomplete cases to the Department of Justice.
During the year of its existence, the PCB disposed of more than 14 thousand cases. In each case, the board determined whether or not the individual deserved clemency and, if so, whether he should be required to complete a period of alternative service.
Alternative service involved working in a job promoting the national health, safety, or interest. Of the civilian clemency applicants, more than four out of every five received outright pardons, only a few were denied clemency, and the remainder were assigned to alternative service before receiving a pardon. Slightly more than one‑third of military applicants received outright pardons, 7 percent were denied clemency, and the remainder participated in alternative service programs.
It has been five years since former President William Jefferson Clinton made his statement of remorse and his intention to do something about the injustice he helped to perpetuate for the last 20 years.
It has been five years since William Jefferson Clinton pledged on his sacred honor to devote himself to remedy his failure to see that the laws were equally and faithfully enforced while he occupied the same office as his revered Founding Father namesake, who helped enshrine the code of conduct of Presidents in our Constitution.
It has been five years, William Jefferson Clinton.