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Over 75 Groups And Law Professors Push Congress To Eliminate 100-To-1 Crack Sentencing Disparity

Over 75 Groups And Law Professors Push Congress To Eliminate 100-To-1 Crack Sentencing Disparity
Justice Department Urges Congress To Pass Crack Reform Bill This Year
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
CONTACT: Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org  
 
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union in partnership with over 75 organizations and law professors urged Congress today to completely eliminate the discriminatory sentencing disparity between offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The written statement by the crack disparity coalition was submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, for today’s hearing entitled “Restoring Fairness to Federal Sentencing: Addressing the Crack-Powder Disparity.” The coalition statement echoed the testimony from the Department of Justice in calling for congressional action to eliminate the crack disparity this year.
 
Federal law automatically requires a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time simple possession of five grams – the weight of two sugar packets - of crack cocaine. The same sentence applies for a person in possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. This 100-to-1 disparity, based upon incorrect presumptions about the nature of the drugs themselves, has a racially discriminatory impact on sentencing because the majority of people arrested for powder offenses are white, while the majority of crack arrestees are black.  In fact, crack arrestees are far more likely to be black, despite the fact that the majority of crack users are white.
 
The following can be attributed to Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel:
 
“Today’s hearing unmistakably demonstrates to Congress that there is broad based support for ending the crack cocaine disparity. Groups representing civil liberties and civil rights advocates as well as leaders of the religious and legal community took a stand against the racial discrimination of the 100-to-1 crack sentencing inequity. Judges, prosecutors and a former federal drug czars all told lawmakers that treating crack and powder cocaine the same way is not being soft on crime, but is smarter and fairer drug policy. It is now time for Congress to act by eliminating this unjust and ineffective sentencing disparity.”
 
A copy of today’s coalition letter to the Senate is available online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/sentencing/39491lgl20090429.html.
 
 
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