Radical Review

The New Crime Bill – Window Dressing for the Blind

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“If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress.”

-Malcom X 

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Let’s face it not unlike other groups we have, more often than not,  allowed those who have actively lobbied against our interests to continue to represent us. We have also allowed those who have done nothing to advocate our interests to return to office again and again. The primary reason is that we have unbelievably short political memories.

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 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

 George Santayana 

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On December 22, 2018, President Trump (the Law and Order President) signed the First Step Act into law.  The bill passed the House and the Senate by overwhelming majorities (Senate 87-12 and the House 358-36). That means, of course, that it also had the overwhelming support of the Republican (Law and Order) Party.  Let that sink in for a minute. 

Cory Booker (D-NJ) 

“… with passage of this bill into law, our country will make a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration . . . which has disproportionately harmed communities of color . . . ” 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-ILL)

“Today’s overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives brings us one step closer to once-in-a-generation criminal justice reform.”

“The majority of illegal drug users and dealers in America are white. But three-quarters of the people serving time in prison for drug offences are African American or Latino….”

Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman House Judiciary Committee

“I know there are some in this body that are opposing this legislation because it does not include sentencing reform. I support sentencing reform and have worked with my colleagues to find common ground on that issue. However, we should not let this opportunity pass by.”

The thing that the above political luminaries fail to mention is that the law that created the frame work for mass incarceration and has so disproportionately harmed communities of color remains on the books.  The law that  they dare not mention is the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 as amended. The monumental first step has taken thirty-two (32) years to accomplish. 

Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

House Resolution 5484 (later Public Law 99-570) was introduced by House Speaker Rep. James Wright of Texas a Democrat  on September 8, 1986. It was passed by the House by unanimous consent three days later on September 11, 1986. There were no committee hearings as is customary and therefore no debate. The Act was signed into law October 27, 1986 – a total of 49 days. Yet it has taken 32 years to take a First Step to reverse some of its effects.  So what we have is a crime law that does not deal with  mass incarceration or sentencing reform. 

The Opposition 

In May 8, 2018, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights issued a letter to the House Judiciary Committee. The letter was endorsed by 75 well known legal, labor and civil rights organizations. In it the Leadership Conference encouraged legislators to vote no on the First Step Act finding that “any effort to pass prison reform (or “back-end” reform) legislation without including sentencing reform (or ‘front-end” reform) will not meaningfully improve the federal system. . . . Without changes to sentencing laws that eliminate mandatory minimums, restore judicial discretion, reduce the national prison population, and mitigate disparate impacts on communities of color, the First Step Act will have little impact.”  

On balance the First Act is no more than window dressing for the blind! 

Read: The First Step Act of 2018 (S.3649) – as introduced

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Johnnie Cordero

Johnnie Cordero is an African American thought leader who identifies as a Radical Centrist. He is the current Chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina. Cordero is the host of the “Radical Review” podcast and is a frequent political contributor and commentator for The MinorityEye. Cordero holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Doctorate in Jurisprudence. He is the author of ‘Total Black Empowerment: A Guide to Critical Thinking in the Age of Trump.’ His new book ‘Theodicy and The Power of the African Will’ is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online book sellers.

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