Congress could limit the early release of crack-cocaine offenders as part of a possible deal with the Bush administration to reduce a wide disparity in cocaine sentences, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) said yesterday, Reuters reports. Biden said there is growing support in Congress for revising a 22-year-old law that sets far harsher federal penalties for crack cocaine, which is more likely to be used by blacks, than powder cocaine. A Justice Department willingness to reduce the disparities and revise a mandatory minimum sentence for crack possession makes a potential deal possible, said Biden. He said he could consider in return the Bush administration’s plea to limit a pending release of crack offenders whose sentences were cut by a federal panel.
At issue is federal legislation passed in 1986 in response to fears of a growing and violent crack epidemic that imposed harsher sentences for that form of the drug, which is smoked, than for powder, which is usually sniffed.