ACLU Calls USSC Federal Sentencing Report a Step in the Right Direction

May 15, 2007 12:00 am

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May 15, 2007


Washington, DC – The ACLU today responded to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s release of its 2007 Report to Congress on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy. Under current law, distribution of just five grams of crack cocaine carries a minimum five-year federal prison sentence; distribution of 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence. This 100:1 sentencing disparity has devastated African-American and low-income communities, targeting low-level offenders while failing to address the larger problem of the drug trade.

Among its findings, the USSC recommends that Congress:

· Increase the amount of crack cocaine required to trigger the five-year mandatory minimum sentence, as current law subjects low-level drug offenders to the same or harsher sentences as major dealers.

· Repeal the mandatory minimum penalty for simple crack cocaine possession.

· Reject proposals to lower the amount of powder cocaine required to trigger the five- and ten-year mandatory minimums, as the Commission finds “no evidence to justify such an increase.”

“The current sentencing structure has had a disproportionate and unfair impact on African-American and low income communities,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, “and we’re encouraged that the U.S. Sentencing Commission has once again acknowledged this fact. But 2007 marks the fourth time in 20 years that the commission has issued such a report, and Congress has yet to address the problem. Years of medical and legal research have shown no appreciable difference between crack and powder cocaine, and no justification for allowing the vast sentencing gap between them to stand. We urge Congress to put aside politics and act now to fix this discriminatory federal drug sentencing policy.”

The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s 2007 Report to Congress on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy is available at:

The ACLU’s report, “Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law,” is available at: /drugpolicy/sentencing/27181pub20061026.html

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