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    Help eliminate crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparities

    The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has helped fuel mass incarceration and has disproportionately harmed people of color. Individuals caught distributing crack cocaine receive a harsher sentence than individuals distributing the same amount of powder cocaine, despite a lack of evidence or scientific justification to support such a difference.

    In fiscal year 2021, over 77% of those convicted of crack cocaine trafficking offenses were Black, compared to 25% for powder cocaine.[1] 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. Black Americans reported similar rates of past month cocaine and crack use as White Americans in 2021.[2]

    We know that a punitive approach to substance use focused on incarceration will not work to address the addiction crisis, and the sentencing disparity perpetuates unnecessarily long prison sentences and fuels racial inequities. The Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act would eliminate the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and ensure that those who were convicted or sentenced for a federal offense involving cocaine can receive a re-sentencing under the new law.

    The bill passed in the House during the last session of Congress, and it has bipartisan support and the support of the Biden administration.

    In 2022, the Attorney General issued a memo directing federal prosecutors to end sentencing disparities in cases involving the distribution of crack and powder cocaine, instructing the U.S. attorneys to charge quantities that apply to powder cocaine when pursuing crack cocaine cases and to advocate for sentences consistent with powder rather than crack cocaine. While this is an important action in the absence of legislation, the EQUAL Act is still needed to make the change retroactive and to ensure the policy cannot be easily reversed in the future.

    Ask your members of Congress to support the EQUAL Act (H.R. 1062/S. 524) to help reduce the unequal harm of incarceration faced by communities of color.