Legislation To End Crack Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Introduced In Senate Today

October 15, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – A bill was introduced today in the Senate that would eliminate the discriminatory disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing under federal law. The bill, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2009, was introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and would also eliminate the mandatory five-year sentence for simple possession of crack. A similar bill, H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, is currently awaiting a vote in the House.

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 offenses are currently equivalent to the sentences for 100 times the amount of powder cocaine, and the impact falls disproportionately on African Americans.

The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislation Office:

“The disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing has been a stain on our justice system for over 20 years. There is no justification for this sentencing gap – both medical and legal research has consistently shown there is no significant difference between crack and powder cocaine. Not only that, there is consensus across the political and ideological spectrum on the sentencing disparity issue with both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama urging reform. With bills in both chambers and a president demanding legislative action, America is now as close as it’s ever been to finally ending the crack-powder disparity and unjust mandatory minimum sentences.”

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