House Considers Bills to Equalize Federal Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

House Considers Bills to Equalize Federal Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing

Legislation Only Way to Eliminate Discriminatory Sentencing Disparity, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on eliminating the unjust and discriminatory 100-to-1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences under federal law. As part of the hearing, entitled "Unfairness in Federal Cocaine Sentencing: Is it time to crack the 100-to-1 disparity?," lawmakers considered several bills to equalize crack and cocaine sentencing statutes and heard testimony from former baseball player Willie Mays Aikens; Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer; a U.S. District Court Judge; a district attorney; and a former prosecutor, among others. Federal law treats five grams of crack cocaine the same as 500 grams of powder cocaine.

The following can be attributed to Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

"The message today from a virtually united panel of lawmakers and representatives was loud and clear: Congress is the only body that can equalize crack and powder cocaine sentencing statutes.

"For 20 years, we have had a gaping crack in our criminal justice system. The impact of harsh crack sentences that are 100 times the amount of powder cocaine sentences falls disproportionately on African Americans. The single feature that most distinguishes a crack cocaine arrestee from a powder cocaine arrestee is skin color - crack defendants are far more likely to be black, despite the fact that the majority of crack users are white." 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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