Forget Sentencing Equality: Moving from the 'Cracked' Cocaine Debate Toward Particular Purpose Sentencing
60 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014
Date Written: September 2, 2013
While a racial equality-themed discourse has traditionally fueled the crack-versus-powder cocaine sentencing debate, this Article asserts that seeking equality in sentencing outcomes is the wrong goal. This Article argues that reformers seeking racial equality in sentencing are misguided in using the cocaine sentencing standards as a benchmark of fairness, because the current cocaine sentencing standards do not effectively serve the purposes of punishment. Rather than focusing on equality, this Article advocates implementing Particular Purpose Sentencing, which involves developing a framework for drug offenses to be analyzed individually and matched with punishments that purposefully address the concerns associated with the particular offense. Particular Purpose Sentencing also requires that, once sentences are matched to a specific purpose, the outcomes of those sentences be studied to ensure that they are fulfilling their particular sentencing purpose. This Article analyzes the legislative and judicial limits of basing sentencing reform on racial equality goals, and explores how implementing Particular Purpose Sentencing has the potential to result in more effective and racially equal consequences. Though this Article introduces Particular Purpose Sentencing using the drug sentencing context, this new sentencing theory can be applied to achieve fairer, more successful sentencing for all offenses.
Keywords: sentencing, equality, purpose, punishment
JEL Classification: K14, K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation