Elimination of First Mandatory Minimum Since Nixon Administration

A bit of good news, though there is still much work to be done against the Drug War . . .
House Joins Senate in Ditching Crack Disparity
FAMM Hails Elimination of First Mandatory Minimum Since Nixon Administration
Date: July 28, 2010
Contact: Monica Pratt Raffanel, media@famm.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed landmark legislation to dramatically reduce the sentencing disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine sentences and to repeal the five-year mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack cocaine. The bill, S. 1789, already won unanimous approval from the Senate in March and now goes to the White House for President Obama?s certain signature. Its passage marks the first time that Congress has repealed a mandatory minimum drug sentence since the Nixon administration.

?Members of both parties deserve enormous credit for moving beyond the politics of fear and simply doing the right thing,? said Julie Stewart, founder and President of FAMM. ?For those of us who have been pushing for reform for nearly 20 years, today?s vote is phenomenal. To see members of Congress come together on such a historically partisan issue like this during an election year is heartening.
?The 100-to-1 disparity was an ugly stain on the criminal justice system,? Stewart continued. ?Nobody will mourn its passing ? least of all, the thousands of individuals and families FAMM has worked with over the past 20 years that have been directly impacted.
?I am hopeful that the forces of reason and compassion that carried the day today will prevail again soon to apply the new law retroactively to help those already in prison for crack cocaine offenses,? Stewart concluded.
While S. 1789 will not eliminate the mandatory minimum for trafficking crack cocaine, it will substantially reduce racial disparity in cocaine sentencing. The infamous 100-to-1 sentencing ratio will be reduced to 18 to 1. Moving forward, 28 grams of crack cocaine will trigger a five-year prison sentence and 280 grams of crack will trigger a 10-year sentence. Once enacted, the law could affect an estimated 3,000 cases annually, reducing sentences by an average of about two years and saving an estimated $42 million over five years. The bill does not provide any relief for people in prison serving crack cocaine sentences because it does not provide for retroactivity. The bill also provides for enhanced sentences for drug offenses involving vulnerable victims, violence and other aggravating factors.
For more detailed information about the history of the federal crack disparity and the changes that will result for S. 1789, click here.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information on FAMM, visit www.famm.org or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at media@famm.org.