THE BLOG

Hillary and Obama on Crack: Part II

03/06/2008 10:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary's position on eliminating the disparity in sentencing between crack offenders and sellers of powder cocaine is more complex than I described in yesterday's post: while she opposes freeing people already in prison under laws that unfairly give overly harsh sentences for crack cocaine in contrast to the powder form of the drug, she is the co-sponsor of a bill that would eliminate this disparity in future cases.

Obama has not signed onto any currently pending legislation on this issue-- although he, too, says he favors eliminating the disparity.

So, Hillary's position seems to be that sentencing people to longer terms in prison for quantities of crack 100 times smaller than those needed to trigger mandatory terms for powder is wrong-- but that people who have already been sentenced unjustly as a result should stay in prison.

While this is much better than doing nothing, it still uncomfortably reminds me of past Clinton actions which privilege pandering over principle. To be fair, however, Obama has yet to commit himself to a specific legislative remedy-- which could open him to similar criticism if his proposals had similar flaws.

Thanks to Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance for the tip!