Sample Criminal Justice Paper Fair Sentencing Act

A new type of cocaine that was reported to be stronger and more dangerous than powder cocaine was discovered in the United States in 1985. Essentially, crack was said to be more addictive, have worse psychological effects, appeal more to young people who could not afford it, and associated with higher rates of crime compared to powder cocaine. Before crack was labeled a threat, only laws regulating powder cocaine had been ratified. However, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act established varying provisions for the two kinds of cocaine, with crack’s regulations bearing worse consequences than those of powder cocaine (Graham, 2011). For example, five grams of crack and five hundred grams of powder cocaine carried similar sentences. However, in 2010, Barrack Obama, the then President of the United States, signed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) that eliminated the disparity between the punishments that the two forms of cocaine carried. Before that, the discussion to reduce the harshness of crack-related punishments compared to those of powder cocaine had been on for about two decades. What inspired the desire to abolish the Anti-Drug Abuse Act? Critical revelations regarding the two kinds of cocaine emerged and they necessitated a change in the law that regulated both.

The Problem that Surrounded the Law

One of the most significant influencers of the enactment of the FSA and repeal of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was the debunking of the effects of crack cocaine. Foremost, few years after the 1986 surge in the use of the product, its popularity fell, leading experts to believe that the drug was not as addictive as initially perceived. Had it been extremely addictive, its use would not have reduced so soon. It was also determined that the link between crack and higher rates of crimes than those associated with powder cocaine had been drawn prematurely. Essentially, crack cocaine turned out to be a different form of cocaine rather than a new product, therefore, it could not have been the cause of the higher rates of crimes among its users compared to those of powder cocaine. These observations led to the conclusion that the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was based on emotions and untested hypotheses

While the harsher penalties of crack and powder cocaine were not meant to be discriminative, they ended up being racially biased. About 66 percent of crack users were Hispanics and Caucasian. Nonetheless, approximately 85 percent of those incarcerated for the use of the product were Blacks (Anderson, 2018). Such a disparity was not observed with statistics of powder cocaine.  The irrationally long prison sentences that African Americans served for crack-cocaine-related crimes not only disrupted the community but also increased the financial burden of prisons on the government and in turn the public needlessly. Therefore, the Anti-Drug Act was repealed to remove its discriminatory undertone.

When crack entered the United States drugs markets, it caused panic because its effects seemed to be worse than those of powder cocaine.  Consequently, lawmakers rushed to enact tough laws to control the substance without the necessary research. Later, the law was not only found to be needless, but also unfair and discriminatory. After it was established that crack was not that different from cocaine, it seemed fair to harmonize its penalties with those of powder cocaine hence the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act. The regulation opened the way for the adoption of other provisions to promote equality further. Undoubtedly, the FSA is a necessary law.



Anderson S. (2018). Fair Sentencing Act retroactivity: Addressing the sentencing disparity of crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine. Retrieved from

Graham K. Sorry seems to be the hardest word: The fair sentencing act of 2010, crack, and methamphetamine. University of Richmond Law Review, 45(765), 765-799

Patterson G. T. (2013).Social work practice in the criminal justice system. Routledge.