Jul 28 2010

Law Revamping Disparity in Cocaine Sentencing Sent to the White House

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he was pleased legislation reducing the disparities in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine is on its way to the White House. 

In March, Graham worked in the Senate Judiciary Committee to broker a compromise between Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) which allowed the legislation to move forward and receive a unanimous vote in committee.  

The legislation has since passed the Senate and today passed the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Under current law, five grams of crack triggers a mandatory five-year prison sentence.  It requires 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive an equal five year mandatory sentence.  The disparity in sentencing is 100 to 1 and the new law will reduce it to 18 to 1. 

“When this was passed, Congress felt that crack cocaine was a plague that was destroying minority communities,” said Graham.  “Over time we have seen that this policy, while well-intentioned, also created negative unintended consequences.  Through the years we have seen a significant number of African-American males sentenced to longer prison sentences for possessing crack cocaine instead of powder. 

“The law created inequities,” said Graham.  “We have found a balance that recognizes and addresses the problem.  We will roll back the injustice that was done.  This is a good example of where Congress recognized there was a problem, and worked together to find a solution.  I’m pleased this legislation is now on its way to the President for his signature.”