Today Is National Call-in Day to Eliminate the Cocaine Disparity

By Terry Keleher Dec 02, 2009

The Sentencing Project has issued a call for action today to end one of the most notorious examples of seemingly race-neutral public policies that have devastating adverse impacts on communities of color. 23 years ago, Congress established mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, which included much harsher penalties for crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. Over the summer months, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, H.R. 3245. A strong show of public support is needed now to move the bill forward for a vote by the entire House of Representatives. You can ask your Representative for support and co-sponsorship by calling the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121 and asking to speak to your Representative. Some of the Sentencing Project’s Talking Points on H.R. 3245 include: • African Americans account for 81.8% of defendants sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses. • Crack cocaine sentences average 37 months longer than sentences for powder cocaine. • Mandatory penalties for crack cocaine offenses have been applied most often to individuals who are low-level participants in the drug trade, who comprise more than 60% of federal crack defendants. • According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, eliminating the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine would reduce the prison population by over 13,000 in 10 years. • The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates it costs $25,895 a year to house each prisoner. If a lot of people take a few minutes of time today to call their Congressperson, it could help save years of prison time for many people of color. Call the U.S. Capitol today at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative, and click here for more information.