Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Maia Szalavitz Headshot

Hillary, Bill and Obama on Crack

Posted: Updated:
Print

While Bill Clinton is apologizing for not having done more to reduce the disparity in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine that is in part responsible for putting one in nine young black men in prison, his wife opposes even the most modest attempt to fix the problem.

Hillary Clinton has come out against making retroactive the small change in sentencing guidelines that allows some people convicted under the overly harsh crack laws to have their sentences reviewed by a judge, and if they are found eligible, given early release. Most blacks affected will still serve more than a decade in prison for a nonviolent crime for which whites often escape incarceration entirely-- but nevermind.

Hillary has bought into fears that this means a sudden massive release of an army of Willie Hortons. But over 90% of crack prisoners sentenced under these laws have no record of violent crime-- and 94% were not classified as "kingpins" or even mid-level drug dealers. Further, the judge reviewing the sentences provides a safety net to ensure that those who are a risk to the public are not released early.

As her husband did before her, when it comes time to make a choice between something that can be used as a political tool against her or doing the right thing and explaining the complexity, Hillary chooses expedience.

It's great to hear that Bill regrets sacrificing the lives of IV drug users and their sexual partners and children to his fear of being demagogued on needle exchange and now to learn that he opposes his own policies on drug sentencing.

But it sounds like Hillary will be saying the same things only after she leaves office if she wins it-- when it means absolutely nothing. Obama, meanwhile, supports making the sentencing change retroactive. Even though politically, given his admission about his own drug use, he has far more to lose than she does by doing the right thing.