Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kenneth Harvey: Waiting on Obama

USA Today features this excellent article on 44-year old Kenneth Harvey, who is serving a life sentence for possession of crack cocaine. The judge in the case recommended clemency after 15 years and an appellate court agreed. And that was 20 years ago! Harvey's family thought that, with Barack Obama as president, they would "have a shot." Instead, they are waiting on one of the slowest presidents in American history to grant even a single pardon or commutation of sentence. According to the story:
The White House won't discuss the issue, other than to say Obama has asked Justice to review how it processes petitions and makes recommendations.
Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at Baylor University asks, "By incarcerating all these people, are we solving any problem? No." The United States Senate has passed the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, which addresses sentencing disparity but the House of Representatives has not yet voted on the legislation. USA Today also quotes President Obama:
"If you're convicted of a crime involving drugs, of course you should be punished. But let's not make the punishment for crack cocaine that much more severe than the punishment for powder cocaine when the real difference between the two is the color of the skin of the people using them."
To which a former U.S. Pardon Attorney (Margaret Colgate Love) responds:
"If we think those sentences are unjust, how can we do nothing for those who are serving them?"

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