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July 21, 2010 (The Sentencing Project)

Tell Congress to Vote Yes for Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform

The House of Representatives will adjourn for its August recess at the end of this week. We don't want them to leave for home until they vote on crack cocaine sentencing reform. If you have not yet called your representative, call now and urge them to support The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to reduce the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine to 18 to 1. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, S. 1789, would also eliminate the simple possession mandatory minimum (5 years for 5 grams without intent to distribute), limit the excessive penalties served by people convicted of low-level crack cocaine offenses, and increase penalties for high-level traffickers. The U.S. Sentencing Commission estimates the changes could reduce the federal prison population by 3,800 over 10 years.

Champions for sentencing fairness are urged to contact their representative in the House today to ask them to vote yes for the Fair Sentencing Act. Call the U.S. Capitol Switch Board at 202-224-3121 and ask for your representative. They will patch you through to the correct office.

Once you reach your representative, tell them I support the Fair Sentencing Act because:

  • The current 100 to 1 cocaine sentencing disparity is unfair. The five-year penalty for possessing as little as five grams of crack cocaine is the same for selling 500 grams of powder cocaine. The law imposes excessive prison sentences for low-level crack cocaine offenses that often exceed penalties for offenses involving powder cocaine trafficking.
  • The current 100 to 1 cocaine sentencing disparity exacerbates racial disparity in federal prisons.  Over 80% of those serving time for a crack cocaine offense are African American, despite the fact that two-thirds of users are white or Hispanic.
  • The Fair Sentencing Act is an historic opportunity to advance justice and restore faith in the criminal justice system. A broad consensus among criminal justice experts, law enforcement organizations, and policymakers has emerged that concludes the current 100:1 disparity cannot be justified. Organizations endorsing reform include: the NAACP; Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union; the National District Attorneys Association; and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
  • The Fair Sentencing Act will also save taxpayers money. Replacing the irrational 100:1 ratio with a new 18:1 ratio will save $42 million over five years, according to Congressional Budget Office.

When you have completed your call to your representative, please email staff@sentencingproject.org and say how it went.  Also, please consider forwarding this email to a friend.

Thank you for joining the effort to reduce the crack cocaine sentencing disparity.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity