Crack cocaine sentencing disparities bill on the way to President Obama

On Wednesday, July 28, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by a unanimous voice vote, S. 1789, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2009 which would reduce the mandatory minimum sentence for a federal conviction of crack cocaine possession from 100 times that of people convicted of carrying the drug in powdered form to 18 times the sentence. This compromise legislation passed the United States Senate late in the evening of Wednesday, March 17, 2010, by unanimous consent (without a recorded vote); it will now go to President Obama for his signature. The NAACP supports this legislation as an important first step toward completely eliminating this racially discriminatory sentencing disparity.

The NAACP appreciates all of the hard work that has gone into this legislation, as well as the fact that it is the first time Congress has moved to reduce any mandatory minimum sentence. The NAACP also recognizes and appreciates that everyone involved in the negotiations seems to agree that the current 100:1 sentencing disparity has had a hugely unfair and racially discriminatory impact on racial and ethnic minority Americans. The NAACP will continue, however, to push for complete elimination of the disparities between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.

Everyone seems to agree that crack cocaine use is higher among Caucasians than any other group: most authorities estimate that more than 66% of those who use crack cocaine are white. Yet in 2006, 82% of those convicted and sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African American. When you add in Hispanics, the percentage climbs to above 96%. Since enactment of this law, over 23 years ago, the 100 to 1 ratio has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the African American and Hispanic communities. Because of the mandatory minimum jail sentence for those convicted of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine or more, people of color are being put in prisons at much higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts, and the judges have no discretion to mitigate the sentence for first-time or nonviolent offenders or special circumstances.

It is estimated that if passed as written, the legislation reducing the sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1 will result in 4,000 fewer Americans being in jail in 10 years.

This is a huge victory for the NAACP; as an elimination of the sentencing disparity has been a priority for us for a long time. In addition to working independently and in coalition in favor of eliminating this particular mandatory minimum sentence, the NAACP has testified before Congress and the U.S. Sentencing Commission on this issue on many occasions.

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3 Responses to "Crack cocaine sentencing disparities bill on the way to President Obama"

  1. Michael  July 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Stop the War on Drugs, it is a complete waste of money, and many people including cops have died in vain. Our government is fool of corruption. We talk about Mexico’s corruption but ours is just as bad. How do you have the military in Columbia, and Afghanistan fighting the war on drugs and yet the drug trade is still going strong. How do you have multiple agencies in the US fighting the drug war and yet it still continues. The war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the war on drugs are all failures. Bring our men and women home where they belong. We should focus more on making friends instead of enemies. There are so many more countries are military is in. Stop sending money oversees and keep it here and focus on domestic issues. Instead of causing problems all over the world. Legalizing all drugs will end all drug related disparities. As long as law enforcement continues to target brown and black neighborhoods there will always be disparities.

  2. rickdimbath  July 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Possessing or dealing five grams of crack cocaine—results in the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as dealing 500 grams of powder cocaine.
    This also applies to first time offenders and non-violent offenders !!!!!!
    5 YEARS PRISON FOR THIS !!!!!!!!

    This has certainly been a boost for the

    The legislation should be passed.
    The PRISONS FOR PROFITS Lobbyists are going to be furious.
    I have not always agreed with everything the NAACP does or say,
    however this is most certainly an act of fairness & sanity for the whole of Society.
    The Bill does not go far enough but should most certainly be passed.

    We need to reserve a substantial amount of Prison Capacity for
    some who truly deserve it, Like WALL STREET & many in WASHINGTON D.C.

    It is no secret and takes no brillance to understand that
    prolonged incarceration for a petty crime involving
    no violence alienates & shifts their perception of society
    as a whole and generates strong resentment against
    Government/Societal Authority & society in general.

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