House Subcommittee Takes First Congressional Vote To End Crack Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

July 22, 2009 12:00 am

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECONTACT: (202) 675-2312; WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security voted on an historic markup today of the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, a bill that would result in the elimination of the unjust and discriminatory disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences under federal law. H.R. 3245, sponsored by Representative Robert Scott (D-VA), removes references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. federal code and takes the welcome step of removing the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. More than two decades ago, based on assumptions about crack which are now known to be false, heightened penalties for crack cocaine offenses were adopted. Sentences for crack are currently equivalent to the sentences for 100 times the amount of powder cocaine, and the impact falls disproportionately on African Americans. Today, policymakers from both judicial and executive branches of the federal government, including former President George W. Bush, agree that Congress must pass legislation to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Interim Director of the ACLU Washington Legislation Office: “Today’s vote is an historic first step in ending a 20-year injustice. Lawmakers must act now to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing by treating both forms of the same drug equally under federal law. Congress alone has the authority to put a stop to the crack-powder disparity and long mandatory minimum sentences.” # # #

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