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Congress Abolishes Unfair Crack Cocaine Sentencing Laws

If you get caught with 500 grams (more than a pound) of powder cocaine – you face a 5 year federal prison sentence, but if you’re caught with only 5 grams of crack cocaine, you also face a 5 year sentence…but maybe not for long. Congress has now approved the passing of a bill that will change this sentencing disparity that many consider very unfair and perhaps even racially discriminatory.

Critics have long called the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine offenses grossly unfair and perhaps even discriminatory. Crack cocaine is more widely used by poorer inner city minorities, so these sentencing laws have helped to exacerbate the disproportionate number of blacks in the correctional system. Opponents of the crack cocaine sentencing laws have been working to change these sentencing guidelines since the 1990’s.

Congress, on a very bi-partisan basis, has now approved a bill that will reduce this disparity by raising the minimum quantity of crack cocaine necessary to trigger a heavy federal jail sentence. President Obama has welcomed the legislation initiative and has said he intends to sign the bill into law.

Attorney General Eric Holder commented on the approval, saying, "By sending the bill to the President, the House has taken an important step toward more just sentencing policies while enhancing the ability of law enforcement officials to protect our communities from violent and dangerous drug traffickers."

The US Sentencing Commission has said that the proposed changes in the law would reduce the average federal crack cocaine sentence by 27 months and could result in 4000 fewer incarcerated inmates my 2020.

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