Monday, November 19, 2007

Restoring My Faith In The Criminal Justice System

So, Lindsay Lohan does 84 minutes. Ditto for Nicole Richie. Mike Nifong barely a day. Naturally, when I saw Mike Tyson, the shell of a former heavyweight champion, plead guilty to cocaine possession last month, I figured he'd be buried under the jail.

Not so fast.

Mike Tyson was sentenced Monday to 24 hours in jail and three years' probation for drug possession and driving under the influence. The former heavyweight champion had pleaded guilty in September to a single felony count of cocaine possession and a misdemeanor DUI count.

Police pulled Tyson over after the boxer had spent the evening at Scottsdale's Pussycat Lounge. An officer said he saw Tyson wiping a white substance off the dashboard of his black BMW, and that his speech was slurred.

Authorities said they found bags of cocaine in Tyson's pocket and in his car.

Tyson told officers later that he used cocaine "whenever I can get my hands on it," and that he preferred to smoke it in Marlboro cigarettes with the tobacco pulled out, according to court documents. He also told police that he used marijuana that day and was taking the antidepressant Zoloft, the documents state.
Of course substance abuse is no laughing matter, but dag, how high did Iron Mike have to be to drop the "whenever I can get my hands on it" line? That's classic Tyson right there.

I'm surprised he didn't get more time, and I can't really decide whether this is preferential "celebrity" treatment or whether I just expected him to do more time since he's black. Because as you all know (and some of you tell me repeatedly), I'm just obsessed with race like that.

While I was out last week, I didn't get to weigh in on the somewhat related story that the Feds are now shortening new prison sentences for crack cocaine offenders, and considering making this change retroactive for those previously sentenced.
The disparity in sentences for those convicted under the crack and cocaine guidelines is staggering. Federal law sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine, but it would take 500 grams of cocaine powder to warrant the same sentence.
This disparity in minimum mandatory sentencing isn't new of course, and many have seen this dichotomy as racist. I happen to agree, since this sort of inordinate sentencing has devastated communities.

On the flipside however, lets not get it twisted. These brothers were unfairly sentenced, but they ain't exactly saints (sound familiar?). By practically opening the floodgates and sending all these cats back home at once into a faltering economy, aren't you pretty much ensuring an outrageous recidivism rate? And aren't you making hustlin' an even more attractive career path, since cats will inevitably realize you can get off far easier now? This is hardly a win-win. Weigh in below.

On a lighter note, since that Tyson quote was so good, I figured I'd throw in a few more classics. Beware, the language is not safe for work. Grab those headphones first.

Mike Tyson Gets 1 Day In Jail [AP]

U.S. Sentencing Ranges Lowered for Crack Cocaine [NPR]

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