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December 2, 2009

Today is National Call-in Day to Eliminate the Cocaine Disparity: Help Pass Legislation This Year

For the first time, crack cocaine sentencing reform legislation received a favorable vote in Congress when the House Judiciary Committee in July approved the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, H.R. 3245. To move the bill forward we need a vote on the bill by the entire House of Representatives. Now is the time for advocates to contact their Representative to ask for support and co-sponsorship of H.R. 3245. Call the U.S. Capitol today at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative.

The prospects for sentencing reform are the best advocates have seen since Congress passed this controversial law 23 years ago. Change cannot happen, however, without your support and continued pressure on members of Congress. Please use these talking points to tell your Representative to take action.

Talking Points:

Please support and co-sponsor H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009. 

This legislation will:

  • Restore federal law enforcement priorities. When Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and 1988, the intended targets of mandatory minimums were “serious” and “major” traffickers. In practice, the law failed to live up to its promise. Mandatory penalties for crack cocaine offenses have been applied most often to individuals who are low-level participants in the drug trade, who comprise more than 60% of federal crack defendants.
  • Save federal tax dollars and ease prison overcrowding. The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates it costs $25,895 a year to house each prisoner. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, eliminating the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine would reduce the prison population by over 13,000 in 10 years.
  • Counter the perception of unfairness in the criminal justice system. African Americans account for 81.8% of defendants sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses. Crack cocaine sentences average 37 months longer than sentences for powder cocaine. This disparity has contributed to a damaging perception of race-based unfairness in our criminal justice system.
  • Treat two forms of the same drug the same. Crack cocaine is pharmacologically the same as powder cocaine. Myths about crack cocaine, that have been dispelled since the sentencing law was passed 23 years ago, contributed to these out of proportion penalties.

VIEW H.R. 3245

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