ACLU at the Crack-Powder Cocaine Hearing

Jessalyn McCurdy of the ACLU testified at today's U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing on the crack-powder cocaine penalties:

A recent ACLU report, Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law, supported the USSC's recommendation that Congress reconsider the 100-to-1 disparity. The report....recommends that federal prosecutions focus on high-level traffickers of both crack and powder cocaine, and supports the elimination of mandatory minimums for crack and powder offenses, especially the mandatory minimum for simple possession.

In her testimony, McCurdy emphasized the report's core finding, that there is no scientific or penological justification for the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity ratio. Although Congress' stated intent was to target high-level cocaine traffickers, the result has been just the opposite - in 2002, a USSC report found that only 15 percent of federal cocaine traffickers can be classified as high-level, while over 70 percent of crack defendants have low-level involvement in drug activity, such as street level dealers, couriers, or lookouts.

On the effect of the sentencing disparity:

he sentencing disparity has had a devastating effect on women and communities of color. African Americans comprise the vast majority of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses, although whites and Hispanics form the majority of crack users. For example, in 2003, whites constituted 7.8 percent and African Americans constituted more than 80 percent of the defendants sentenced under the harsh federal crack cocaine laws, while more than 66 percent of crack cocaine users in the United States are white or Hispanic. In addition, sentencing policies, particularly the mandatory minimum for low-level crack offenses, subject women with minimal involvement in the drug trade to the same or harsher sentences as the major dealers in a drug organization.

< Scooter Judge: Crack Penalties "Unconscionable" | Update on War Crimes Complaint Against Rumsfeld >
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