More good news. The Fair Sentencing Act passed today in the House.
The legislation would reduce disparities in crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing, which has overwhelmingly swelled the black prison population over the past two decades. Since 1986, a person convicted of simple possession of crack cocaine has gotten the same mandatory sentence as a person with 100 times that amount of powder cocaine, reports the AP. And the sentences were almost always racially skewed: 85 percent of people convicted of crack offenses are black, even though blacks make up just 30 percent of crack users.
The new bill mandates that the ratio be lessened to 18 to 1; still not perfect, but much closer to equal and a reluctant compromise by drug sentencing reform advocates.
We noted earlier this week that advocates were pushing for lawmakers to tackle the bill before August recess. They’ve succeeded.
Calling today’s passage a “historic moment,” Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director for the National Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement: “I’m overjoyed that thousands of people, mostly African American, will no longer be unjustly subjected to the harsh sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s.”
On the compromise, Tyler added, “The compromise is not perfect and more needs to be done, but this is a huge step forward in reforming our country’s overly harsh and wasteful drug laws.”
The bill is now headed to President Obama’s desk where it’s likely to be signed into law.