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The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has helped fuel mass incarceration and has disproportionately harmed people of color. While lowered from its initial 100-to-1 disparity, the law still dictates the same sentence for people convicted with one amount of crack cocaine and 18 times that amount of powder cocaine. There is no scientific justification to support this difference, and we know that punitive approaches focused on incarceration will not work to address the addiction crisis.
We urge you to send the below email to your members of Congress to encourage them to cosponsor the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act (H.R. 1693/S. 79), which would eliminate the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and allow those who were convicted or sentenced for a federal offense involving cocaine to receive a re-sentencing.
Cosponsor the EQUAL Act
Dear [Decision Maker],
I write to urge you to cosponsor the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act (H.R. 1693/S. 79), which would eliminate the federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and retroactively apply it to those already convicted or sentenced.
In 1986, the sentencing disparity was set at 100-to-1, meaning that, for example, someone caught distributing 5 grams of crack cocaine served the same 5-year prison sentence as someone caught distributing 500 grams of powder cocaine. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, and the FIRST STEP Act made that reduction retroactive in 2018. However, the disparity remains at 18-to-1, despite a lack of evidence or scientific justification to support such a difference. The sentencing disparity has helped fuel mass incarceration and has disproportionately harmed people of color. In fiscal year 2020, over 77% of those convicted of crack cocaine trafficking offenses were Black, compared to 27.3% for powder cocaine. Consequently, Black Americans are most affected by the longer sentences associated with crack cocaine offenses and punished more severely than those who commit similar crimes with powder cocaine, despite reporting similar rates of past month cocaine and crack use as White Americans in 2019. The sentencing disparity perpetuates unnecessarily long prison sentences and fuels racial inequities, while being ineffective to address the addiction crisis, as we know that punitive responses focused on incarceration do not work. The EQUAL Act would eliminate the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and allow those who were previously convicted or sentenced for a federal offense involving cocaine to receive a re-sentencing. The bill has bipartisan support and the support of the Biden administration.
Thank you for your consideration. I hope you will cosponsor the EQUAL Act to reduce the unjustified punitive response to substance use and the harms it disproportionately imposes on people of color.