The EQUAL Act and cocaine sentencing reform

Maryland

MARYLAND (WDVM) — Crack cocaine and powder cocaine are two forms of the same drug, yet the sentences users receive can vary. Now, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Dick Durbin are working on legislation to change that.

“We can not eliminate bigotry and bias out of every human heart, but our job is to eliminate it from our statutes and are our laws, wherever we can, and the crack powder disparities are the most obnoxious of the discriminatory aspects in our federal justice system,” said the president of FAMM, Kevin Ring.

After the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, sentencing for crack and powder cocaine offenses vastly differed. Someone caught distributing just 5 grams of crack cocaine served the same sentence as some caught distributing 500 grams of powder cocaine. Then in 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act was passed. Regardless, the truth of the matter is that the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity has disproportionately impacted people of color.

William Curtis, who served 20 years in prison for selling $20 and $50 rocks of cocaine, knows firsthand how the system can seem flawed.

“We all deserved to be punished, but we all deserve to be punished equally,” said Curtis. “I sat in prison many a day, saw people sentenced under powder, white people, sentenced under powder go home, turn around and come back for doing the same thing.”

The EQUAL Act could eliminate the current sentencing disparity and ensure that those who were convicted or sentenced for a federal offense involving crack cocaine can receive a re-sentencing under the new law.

Some lawmakers believe there needs to be an even treatment of how we treat crack vs powder cocaine at the federal level. Some feel this proposed legislation is long overdue, and more needs to be done to give those convicted on these kinds of drug charges their lives back.

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