Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MLK Day is a Great Day for Retroactivity

So argues FAMM President Julie Stewart in this op-ed in The Huffington Post in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday yesterday:

On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?"
Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?"
And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" 
But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?"
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

On August 3, 2010, the nation's first African-American president signed into law a bill to reform what many considered the most racially discriminatory sentencing policy in federal law. The old policy required dramatically more severe penalties for crimes involving crack cocaine than for offenses involving powder cocaine. The president and Congress deserve credit for working together to lower crack penalties. Yet, in a cruel irony, they failed to provide any relief to the very prisoners whose unnecessarily harsh sentences they had pointed to as the impetus for reform. As our nation celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., we implore the president and new Congress to listen to their consciences, do what is right, and apply the reformed crack penalties retroactively to all offenders.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned an America where members of all races were treated equally -- including in the courthouse and at sentencing.  Making MLK's dream a reality shouldn't be limited to people who aren't in prison yet.