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Policymakers Move to Equalize Cocaine Sentences


Support is solidifying in Congress and within the Obama administration to finally equalize the penalties for crimes involving the crack and powdered version of cocaine, the Washington Post reported July 25.

A House subcommittee recently passed a bill that creates sentencing parity for cocaine offenses and eliminates five-year mandatory prison sentences for crack possession. In the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on companion legislation.

Certain federal laws punish crack offenses at a rate 100 times higher than offenses involving powdered cocaine, a disparity that critics say disproportionately effects minority communities, where crack use tends to be more prevalent.

“We all know that this egregious difference in punishment is simply wrong,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “The Department of Justice will never back down from its duty to protect our citizens and our neighborhoods from drugs, or from the violence that all too often accompanies the drug trade. But we must discharge this duty in a way that protects our communities as well as the public’s confidence in the justice system.”

The House’s Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act must still be approved by the full Judiciary Committee and the full House.

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