“The current disparity is not based on evidence but has caused significant damage for decades, particularly to individuals, families and communities of color,” Regina LaBelle, acting director of the Office of the Church of Color, said Tuesday. national drug control policy, to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The persisting disparity of sentences is a significant injustice in our legal system. And it is high time that it stopped.”
The EQUAL Act was introduced earlier this year by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Democratic Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Republican Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, then joined the measure. The Associated House Bill is sponsored by Democratic Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Bobby Scott of Virginia, as well as GOP Representatives Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Don Bacon of Nebraska.
The 1986 law imposed sentencing guidelines such as a minimum of five years in federal prison without parole for possession of five grams of crack, whether or not it was the offender’s first contact with the criminal justice system.
“The disparity in crack / powder sentences has undoubtedly led to unjustified differences in sentences for trafficking in two forms of the same substance, as well as unjustified racial disparities in its application,” the Justice Department said. “The disparity in sentences was based on misinformation about the pharmacology of cocaine and its effects, and there is no need to address the real and critical societal issues associated with cocaine trafficking, including violent crime.”
Matthew Charles, a member of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, was sentenced to a mandatory 35-year federal prison sentence for selling crack cocaine due to his previous criminal activity. He testified that sentences should be left to the discretion of the judge presiding over an individual’s case, noting that it was a judge who granted his release from prison in 2016 after serving 21 years behind bars.
According to the group, “It turned out, however, that his release was a mistake, and in May 2018 he was fired to serve the remainder of his sentence – more than a decade to go. this year Matthew became one of the very first people to benefit from the First Step Act and was released again. “
Charles says the judge released him because if he had been convicted of powder cocaine he would not have been jailed yet.
“It was the crack that kept me tied,” Charles said.
In March, “87.5% of those serving sentences at the Federal Bureau of Prisons for drug trafficking offenses, where the main drug involved was crack, were black. This means that almost 90% of federal inmates are still suffering from the effects of the disparity, today is black, “said the Department of Justice.
If the bill passes, the Justice Department says it also supports the retroactive reduction of sentences for those currently incarcerated after judicial review because “it is the right thing to do and because the evidence shows that previous cases of retroactive sentence reductions have not impacted public safety. “