WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed today the EQUAL Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 361-66. The bill would eliminate the decades-old sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine and apply that change retroactively. The current sentencing disparity of 18-to-1 disproportionately impacts Black Americans, which means while 6.3 percent of people sentenced under these laws are white, the vast majority — 77.1 percent — are Black. The American Civil Liberties Union released the following statement upon passage.
Statement from Aamra Ahmad, ACLU senior policy counsel:
“For 35 years, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, based on neither evidence nor science, has resulted in higher sentences that are disproportionately borne by Black families and communities. We applaud the House for passing the EQUAL Act, which will finally end that disparity, including for thousands of people still serving sentences under the unjust disparity who would now have the opportunity to petition courts for a reduced sentence.
“Congress should continue to work to end the war on drugs, including ending mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately impact communities of color while failing to make us safer. Now that the House has taken this important action on the EQUAL Act, the Senate must quickly follow suit and finally end this racially unjust policy.”
The ACLU is scoring the vote on passage of the EQUAL Act in the organization’s congressional scorecard, available online here.