First Step Away from Crack Penalties Enacted by Congress in 1986
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Buoyed by Department of Justice support for eliminating the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and outraged by the high cost of incarcerating low-level drug offenders for excessively long prison terms, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security unanimously passed H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, on July 22.
The bill would remove references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. Code, effectively treating all cocaine, including crack, the same for sentencing purposes. Original cosponsors of the bill include all Democratic members of the subcommittee and the sponsors of all other Democratic bills that address the cocaine sentencing disparity.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums President Julie Stewart hailed today’s vote. “Congress has finally launched a bill that addresses this decades old injustice. While the vote may be one small step for this bill, it is one giant step for sentencing sanity.”
“If Congress eliminates the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, it would not only restore some faith in the justice system among the communities most affected by the law, it would reduce prison overcrowding and free up funding for more effective rehabilitation efforts. A minimum of $26 million would be saved in the first year of the reforms and nearly $530 million over the next 15 years,” says Stewart. “FAMM strongly urges Congress to make the changes retroactive so that people currently serving unjust sentences for crack cocaine can benefit and taxpayers will see even greater savings.”
House movement to address the cocaine sentencing disparity is supported by long-term opposition to mandatory minimums and the current crack sentencing structure by the federal judiciary, criminal justice practitioners, experts, and the public.
Currently, five grams of crack cocaine and 500 grams of powder cocaine trigger the same five-year sentence. Fifty grams of crack cocaine and five kilograms of powder cocaine trigger the same 10-year sentence. If this bill succeeds, crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimums will be equal: 500 grams will require five years and 5 kilos (or 5,000 grams) will require 10 years, no matter what form of cocaine is involved.
FAMM is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working for fair and proportionate sentencing laws. Visit www.famm.org.