It's Not Fair

Document Date: August 9, 2007

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Coalition Launches Ad Campaign to Bring Fairness to Crack Cocaine Sentencing

A coalition of criminal justice advocacy organizations is launching "It's Not Fair. It's Not Working," a national effort to reform the federal sentencing disparity ratio between crack and powder cocaine. The current 100-to-1 ratio results in excessive mandatory minimum sentences for first-time possession of small amounts of crack cocaine.

According to Jesselyn McCurdy of the ACLU, "These unfair mandatory sentences for crack cocaine have an especially high impact on communities of color. In 2005, blacks constituted over 80 percent of those sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws."

The coalition will release a series of ads that focus on the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine.

"Something's Wrong With the Math" points out that an individual only needs to possess five grams of crack cocaine versus 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same five-year mandatory sentence.

"There's A Crack in the System" supports the American ideal of a fair and appropriate sentencing system while at the same time informing the public that possessing a small amount of crack cocaine can carry an excessive penalty. According to Kara Gotsch of The Sentencing Project, “These laws have had no impact on reducing the availability of drugs in our communities and have in fact diverted precious resources. Possessing a quantity of drugs equivalent to two sugar packets should not send a person to prison for five years.

"It's Not Fair" features Karen Garrison, mother of twin sons who received 15 and 19 year sentences for a non-violent crack cocaine offense just months after they graduated from college. According to Jasmine Tyler of the Drug Policy Alliance, “Karen Garrison is like mothers all over the country who want success for their children. Instead she will be making visits to federal prisons for years."

Coalition partners include the Open Society Institute, the Sentencing Project, the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance.

> Coalition Launches Public Education Initiative to Bring Fairness to Crack Cocaine Sentencing (8/9/2007)
> ACLU Calls USSC Federal Sentencing Report a Step in the Right Direction (5/15/2007)
> U.S. Sentencing Commission Issues News Recommendations on Federal Sentencing Guidelines (4/28/2007)
> ACLU Testifies Before United States Sentencing Commission for Fair Drug Sentencing Policies (11/14/2006)

> "It's Not Fair. It's Not Working" Media Resource Guide
> Report: Cracks in the System: 20 Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law
> United States Sentencing Commission Report: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy (PDF)

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