Via Global Investment Watch, a letter from Color of Change, asking for folks to contact their congresscritters.
This bill, if it passes, is a good example of how the marginal difference between Democrats and Republicans, marginal though it is, matters. (But even if this bill passes, eliminating one devastating sentencing disparity, other, more subtle sentencing disparities will remain.)
The remainder of this post is the letter from Color of Change.
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The so-called “war on drugs” has created a national disaster: 1 in 15 Black adults in America are behind bars. It’s not because we commit more crime but largely because of unfair sentencing rules that treat 5 grams of crack cocaine–the kind found in poor Black communities–the same as 500 grams of powder cocaine, which is the kind found in White and wealthier communities. These sentencing laws are destroying communities across the country and have done almost nothing to reduce the level of drug use and crime.
We now have an opportunity to end this disaster once and for all. A bill is moving through Congress right now that would end the sentencing disparity. It’s critical that members of Congress see support from everyday folks. Join us in asking our representatives in the House and Senate to push for its passage, and please ask your friends and family to do the same. It only takes a moment:
At every step in the criminal justice system, Black people are at a disadvantage — we are more likely to be arrested, charged, and convicted, but less likely to have access to good legal representation, and get out of prison on parole. While there’s no denying that the presence of crack has a hugely negative impact in Black communities across the country, it’s clear that the overly harsh crack sentencing laws have done more to feed the broken system than improve our communities.
You have to be convicted of moving roughly $75,000 worth of cocaine to trigger a 5-year sentence. For crack? About $500 worth. These laws punish the lowest-level dealers, while providing a loophole that helps those running the trade escape harsh sentences.
Recently, attention has turned to these ill-conceived policies as prisons burst at the seams with non-violent drug offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which provides sentencing guidelines for judges, has petitioned Congress numerous times to change the sentencing laws.
Last year, we reached out to you when Senator Joe Biden– one of the original architects of the disparity– introduced a bill that would have finally eliminated it and ended the mandatory minimum for crack possession, while increasing funding for drug treatment programs and providing additional resources for going after major cocaine kingpins.
His proposal stalled, but that same legislation is moving through Congress again with new support, and it looks like there’s a real chance it could pass. The White House is a clear ally. President Obama has said many times that punishment for crack and powder cocaine should be the same, and Biden is now Vice President and still an ardent advocate for getting rid of the disparity.
But there are foes of this plan. Others want to see the disparity reduced to 20-to-1 or 10-to-1, but not eliminated. As Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance has said, that “would be like amending the Constitution’s three-fifths clause to make African-Americans fourth-fifths citizens or desegregating 60 percent of public establishments instead of all of them.” Members of Congress need to hear that there is strong support for a full elimination of the disparity, and that now’s the time to support such legislation.
We can take this opportunity to join the Sentencing Commission and countless other advocates in calling on Congress to change this unjust law. Please join us:
Thank You and Peace,
– James, Gabriel, William, Dani, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
April 20th, 2009
- Crack Cocaine Sentencing: Systematic Racism At Work
- Prison Sentencing Study: Whites, Women, Non-Poor, and U.S. Citizens Are Given Lighter Sentences
- AFA decides not to submit poll to Congress
- Good news: Tancredo to Retire from Congress
- Who Cares If Republicans Are Racist In Their Hearts? Their Actions Are Racist.