Crack the Disparity Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 2

[Courtesy of the Crack the Disparity Coalition] Secure Fairness in Crack Cocaine Sentencing -- Join Lobby Day this Spring Plans are underway for the second national lobby day for crack cocaine sentencing reform in Washington, DC, hosted by the Crack the Disparity Coalition. An exact date has not yet been set but we invite advocates from around the country to attend the Capitol Hill event this spring. As a participant, you will speak with Members of Congress and their staff about the unjust sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and the need to eliminate it. Training and materials will be provided to you. Look for more details in the December issue of the Crack the Disparity Newsletter. Home for the Holidays By Karen Garrison Karen Garrison is the mother of twin sons sentenced to nearly two decades for a first-time nonviolent crack cocaine offense. Her son Lawrence will soon be released due to the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recent changes to the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses. The dream will be a reality for one of my sons who will be home this December. It has been 10 years and Lawrence and Lamont's room has hardly been touched. I covered the beds with heavy plastic. Long ago I gave away their clothes and shoes to shelters and halfway houses, not only because of their weight loss, but clothing goes out of style in a period of ten years. I must now begin to prepare a place for one of my twins, never forgetting that one will remain behind unjust bars. I am buying sheets, towels, and gathering healthy recipes he will enjoy preparing. I will try to purchase new furniture and have already bought the paint for his room. Coming home to those same bunk beds would just make it harder on both of us. Those are the beds he shared with his twin brother Lamont. Commute Crack Cocaine Sentences in Time for the Holidays By Jasmine Tyler This month the Crack the Disparity Coalition launched the "Home for the Holidays" campaign to rally support for individuals serving excessive penalties for crack cocaine offenses who have filed commutation requests with President George W. Bush. The President expressed concern for the crack cocaine sentencing disparity in the early days of his administration. The sentencing disparity "ought to be addressed by making sure the powder-cocaine and the crack-cocaine penalties are the same," he said in 2001. "I don't believe we ought to be discriminatory." Advocates are hoping to capitalize on these sympathies to expedite applications for crack cocaine cases and increase recommendations for clemency. The campaign is promoting support for clemency applicants seeking relief from the uniquely severe penalties for low-level crack cocaine offenses that subject defendants possessing as little as 5 grams of crack cocaine to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. A powder cocaine defendant must be convicted of selling 100 times that amount to trigger the same sentence. Since Congress has yet to act to alleviate this disparity, advocates' focus this fall is to ensure that those who are seeking clemency do not go unheard. Teen Profiles Crack Cocaine Reformer: Pamela Alexander - A Profile in Courage By Laura S., Cincinatti, OH This article was reprinted courtesy of, a nonprofit, national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing and art. On December 11, 2007, members of the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to make a groundbreaking change in one of their policies. They decided that the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine crimes and those involving powder cocaine was exceedingly unjust and prejudiced. With crack users being predominantly black and powder cocaine users predominantly white, the Sentencing Commission judged the much harsher sentences for crack users to be racially biased at their core. The Commission therefore has allowed thousands currently imprisoned for crack cocaine violations to appeal their sentences before federal judges, in an effort to shorten these sentences where feasible. While this represents a major step toward racial equality and justice, one uncelebrated, independent woman put her career on the line for this same issue - seventeen years ago. Petition President Bush Join citizens concerned about the harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level crack cocaine offenses by telling President George Bush and Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers to expedite and give special consideration to commutation applicants serving excessive sentences for crack cocaine. Sign a petition by clicking here. Save the Date September 24-27, 2008: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 38th Annual Legislative Conference, Washington, D.C. September 26-September 28, 2008: Critical Resistance 10th Anniversary Celebration and International Conference and Strategy Session, Oakland, CA October 19-22, 2008: International Community Corrections Association 16th Annual International Research Conference, "Risk, Resilience and Reentry," St. Louis, MO Spring 2009: Crack the Disparity Lobby Day, Washington, D.C. Media Attention Daily Press Editorial on Equalization of Crack and Powder Cocaine Sun-Sentinel Coverage on Prison Term Reductions for Cocaine Cases Kansas City Star Coverage on Former Kansas City Royal Baseball Player Willie Mays Aikens The Crack the Disparity Coalition includes the American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Break the Chains, Drug Policy Alliance, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Open Society Policy Center, Restoring Dignity, Inc., Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Sentencing Project, and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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