Coalition Again Urges Review of Powder-Crack Sentencing


A coalition of civil, political, and human rights groups are again asking for a congressional review of the nearly 20-year-old disparity between federal sentencing laws for crack and powder cocaine, reports Pacific News Service. A letter from the group leaders was sent to members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. “Taking a look at this issue is something we really need to do,” Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.), told the groups at a briefing. “This disparity cannot continue.” The law provides the same 10-year minimum prison term for 5 kilograms of powder cocaine and 50 grams of crack–a 100-to-1 ratio.

The coalition, the Justice Roundable, cited U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics showing that 80.8 percent of crack cocaine defendants in 2003 were black, despite the fact that more than 66 percent of crack cocaine users in the U.S. were white or Latino. Between 1994 and 2003, the average time served by blacks for a drug offense increased by 77 percent, compared to an increase of 28 percent for white drug offenders. The group leaders told Congress: “Two decades ago, little was known about crack, other than vague perceptions that this new derivative form of cocaine was more dangerous than its original powder form, would significantly threaten public health, and greatly increase drug-related violence. Since that time, copious documentation and analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission have revealed that many assertions were not supported by sound data and, in retrospect, were exaggerated or simply incorrect.”


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