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Moving with "Dispatch" to Crack the Disparity

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
ACLU
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June 18, 2009

Yesterday, Attorney General Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a semiannual check-up (a.k.a. congressional oversight). Attorney General Holder was questioned about a many issues of interest to the ACLU. However, there was one question and answer that left me feeling cautiously hopeful.

In response to a fairly lengthy question from Senator Durbin (D-Ill.), Attorney General Holder said it was his hope that Congress would move with “dispatch” to eliminate the notorious and racially discriminatory crack sentencing disparity this year.

The Obama Department of Justice has previously testified in support of eliminating the crack sentencing disparity, but hopefully the comments of Attorney General Holder today will finally light the necessary fire under the tail feathers of certain Members of Congress. Early indications are promising. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.) immediately responded by saying that it was his hope to see Congress act this year to end the more than two-decade “crack” in our justice system.

Additionally, it is very likely that we will soon see Congress begin the process of moving legislation that would finally correct this injustice. ACLU members and activists should act now to contact their representatives to let them know that this is an issue that demands their attention. Two decades are too long to wait. Our prisons are too crowded. We are spending too much money on an effective, unfair policy. It is time for Congress to move with the necessary “dispatch” to right this wrong!

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