"After" the War on Drugs: The Fair Sentencing Act and the Unfinished Drug Policy Reform Agenda

Author(s): 
Kara Gotsch
Publication Date: 
December 7, 2011

ACS is pleased to distribute “'After' the War on Drugs: The Fair Sentencing Act and the Unfinished Drug Policy Reform Agenda,” an Issue Brief by Kara Gotsch, Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project. With 2011 as the 40th anniversary of the declaration of the “War on Drugs,” Gotsch uses this marker as an opportunity to discuss the failed sentencing policies of the last few decades. “The United States leads the world in incarceration at 2.3 million...[t]his nation’s war on drugs...more than any other single factor, has fueled this historic incarceration boom,” Gotsch explains. This Issue Brief’s discussion is also devoted to the “bittersweet victory” of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, a milestone response to sentencing disparities, but one that did not go far enough. An 18-to-1 sentencing disparity for powder cocaine and crack cocaine remains and the Act is not retroactive, so “many thousands of people in prison are still enduring excessive mandatory sentences handed down under the old law,” according to Gotsch. The Fair Sentencing Act is a significant starting point, however, to “achieving a more profound shift in the nation’s approach to drugs,” Gotsch concludes in her Issue Brief.