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February 2008
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Bolt the doors, Ethel, the Prison Crack Gangs are loose!

Our Attorney General pulls out the FEAR card again.

In a statement prepared for his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said that unless Congress acts, “1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide” under a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
“Retroactive application of these new lower guidelines will pose significant public safety risks . . .” Mukasey said in the statement. “Many of these offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system and their early release . . . would produce tragic, but predictable results.”

Malakkar Vohryzek does a good job of putting Mukasey in his place. Vohryzek does it by using things like facts.

First off, no one is addressing the truth that I’ve experienced first hand, being a former federal prisoner: most of the “gang member” crack dealers are profiled as gang members. Just as I was listed as a “Drug Kingpin” due to the weight of the paper involved in my case (not the actual LSD amount), most young black men convicted of crack offenses are called “gang members” based on little more than speculation.
They certainly aren’t convicted of being gang members. A tattoo of a girlfriend’s name becomes a gang affiliation mark. A scar from a bullet wound. Clothing worn when arrested. There are endless facts that can be taken out of context, and used to assert a gang membership, even when this is patently false. I did five years with a man out of Compton. He had no gang affiliation whatsoever. Yet he was listed as a blood, because the snitch in his case was affiliated with the Bloods, and if he was supplying a gang member affiliate, clearly it was because he was in the gang himself.

And yes, this epidemic of violent crack dealers? Let me look at my area — Bloomington-Normal, Illinois — a booming twin cities with two universities, major industry, several police departments, and over 200 police officers. Based on population averages, we should be prepared to expect an onslaught of… almost one crack dealer. That is, assuming that a Judge approves the release even after Justice Department efforts to prevent it. And this crack dealer will already have served significantly more time than an equivalent powder cocaine dealer.
It would be nice to have an Attorney General who would come out and say:

“This is an overdue correction to a bad law, and I’m instructing the Justice Department to work with the Judiciary to expedite the identification and release of eligible non-violent offenders to be reunited with their families. As an additional benefit, this initial release could save us up to $40 million per year in prison costs.”

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

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