Blog of Rights

Crack the Disparity

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:09pm
On Tuesday, February 26th, over 50 people from 15 states across the country came to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to reform the federal crack cocaine law by eliminating the 100-to-1 disparity that exists between sentences for crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine. This gaping "crack" in our criminal justice system treats a mere five grams of crack cocaine - roughly two cubes of sugar - the same as 500 grams of powder cocaine. Someone caught in possession of five grams of crack is subject to a mandatory five-year sentence. That's nearly 2,000 days behind bars! The crack/powder disparity and the impact it has had in overcrowding in our prisons with low-level, first-time, nonviolent drug offenders was put into proper context with the recent revelation that one out of every 100 U.S. adults is currently behind bars - the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. Clearly the strategy of "lock ‘em up and throw away the key" is failing miserably. Joining forces in D.C. on the 26th were both those state and national advocates who are at the front lines of efforts to eliminate the 100-to-1 disparity after 20 years of unfair sentences, as well as those whose lives have been personally impacted by this injustice - people like Michael Scott. At the age of 21, Michael was given a nearly 20-year prison sentence for low-level involvement with crack cocaine. He served 15 years of that sentence before it was commuted by President Bush (hardly someone who could be labeled "soft on crime") in December of 2007. In this YouTube video, Michael and others speak out in support of reform .

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There is currently legislation in Congress that would completely eliminate the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine vs. those for powder cocaine. Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support and co-sponsor S. 1711 and H.R. 4545, the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act. This is a matter of fundamental fairness and equal justice under the law. Act today!
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