Coalition Launches Public Education Initiative to Bring Fairness to Crack Cocaine Sentencing

August 9, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@dcaclu.org

Ads Raise Awareness About Disparity In Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing

WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of criminal justice advocacy organizations is launching "It's Not Fair. It's Not Working," a national effort to reform the 100-to-1 federal sentencing disparity ratio between crack and powder cocaine which results in excessive mandatory minimum sentences for first-time possession of small amounts of crack cocaine. The initiative will officially launch at the National Association of Black Journalists 32nd Annual Convention August 8-12, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"All Americans want to live in drug-free communities. Unfortunately this law locks up small-time drug users who need to be in treatment programs instead of prison," said Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute (OSI). Other coalition partners include The Sentencing Project, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). According to Jesselyn McCurdy of the ACLU, "We chose to launch our initiative at the NABJ conference to highlight the racial impact of the federal crack cocaine law. 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 5 grams of crack cocaine versus 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same 5 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 2 sugar packets should not send a person to prison for 5 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."

For more information about "It's Not Fair. Its Not Working," please visit booth #535 at the NABJ Conference.

The ads can be viewed and downloaded at www.aclu.org/itsnotfair.

The ACLU's report, Cracks in the System: 20 Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law, is online at
www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/sentencing/27181pub20061026.html.

Statistics image