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Senate Vote Reduces Crack Powder Cocaine Disparity

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By Kamika Dunlap on March 22, 2010 10:50 AM

The Senate vote to reduce the disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine possession and powdered cocaine aims to improve the criminal justice system.

According to the Associated Press, the bill's sponsor, Dick Durbin (D-Il.), said that if the bill recently approved by the Senate is enacted into law, it would help to ensure that people are treated more fairly criminal justice system.

Under the current law, the crack-powder disparity has particular affected the African American community, as previously discussed. The latest data shows although blacks make up 30 percent of crack users, they comprise more than 80 percent of those convicted of federal crack offenses.

As the law stands, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession gets the same mandatory jail time as someone with 100 times that quantity of powder cocaine. But under the new law the drug sentencing ratio would be reduced 18 to 1.

Drug sentencing laws date back to the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts in the late 1980s, as previously discussed.

President Obama made changes in the crack-powder disparity part of his presidential campaign. Also, the Justice Department has been working on recommendations for a new set of sentences for cocaine.

The bill, the Fair Sentencing Act, was originally introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill last week and it was praised by Attorney General Eric Holder.

A similar bill, Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009 is pending in the House.

ACLU Washington Legislative Office said the new legislation would help to end racial disparity but the overall framework around drug sentencing policies still need to be addressed.

 

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