by Samantha Michaels | Mother Jones
In 1986, Sen. Joe Biden drafted a crime bill that made punishments for possessing crack cocaine monumentally more severe than punishments for possessing powder cocaine, another form of the drug that was chemically the same but had been stereotypically associated with rich white people. This sentencing disparity—the subject of much debate in recent years
—contributed to soaring and disproportionate incarceration for Black Americans. Now, decades later, Biden’s presidential administration is finally moving to end this injustice.
On Friday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that federal prosecutors will start seeking the same charges and punishments for people caught with both forms of the drug. “The crack/powder disparity in sentencing has no basis in science, furthers no law enforcement purposes, and drives unwarranted racial disparities in our criminal justice system,” the Justice Department said in a statement, echoing testimony that Garland gave to Congress.
Advocates of criminal justice reform applauded the move. “This was not only a major prosecutorial and sentencing decision—it is a major civil rights decision,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Black civil rights leader who led marches in the 1990s against racist drug laws, said in a statement. He noted the ripple effects that the war on crack had in communities of color: “The racial disparities of this policy have ruined homes and futures for over a generation.”
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