After more than two decades of criticism over cocaine sentences that disproportionately punish African Americans, momentum is building in Congress and in the Obama administration for a legislative fix, says the Washington Post. For the first time after multiple attempts, a House subcommittee last week approved a bill to equalize criminal penalties for people caught with crack cocaine and those caught with powder cocaine. The bill would eliminate mandatory prison terms of five years for possession of crack cocaine.
The subcommittee vote came as a bipartisan group from the Senate Judiciary Committee was working on a similar proposal. It could be unveiled as early as next week. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), forecast the idea during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor when he said, “I think we’re going to do that crack thing.” “We all know that this egregious difference in punishment is simply wrong,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told the National Association of Black Prosecutors Wednesday. Still, the Obama administration has not issued a specific proposal to change the law.