WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Don Bacon (R-NE) applauded the passage of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act out of the House Judiciary Committee 36 to 5. The bipartisan legislation would eliminate the federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and retroactively apply it to those already convicted or sentenced.
“The failed war on drugs, which started 50 years ago, has devastated lives, families and communities across our country. For decades, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has been used to fuel a mass incarceration epidemic that has unjustly put millions behind bars for too long and cost taxpayers billions of dollars without benefiting public safety. The EQUAL Act will finally eliminate the federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and provide retroactive relief to those already convicted or sentenced. We applaud our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for its overwhelming passage and look forward to its full consideration by the House,” said Reps. Jeffries, Scott, Armstrong and Bacon.
The sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine, at one point as high as 100 to 1, helped fuel the mass incarceration epidemic. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in Fiscal Year 2020, 77.1% of crack cocaine trafficking offenders were Black, whereas most powder cocaine trafficking offenders were either white or Hispanic. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the sentencing disparity from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1, and in 2018 the FIRST STEP Act made that reduction retroactive.
Rep. Jeffries has long advocated for restoring justice to America’s drug laws. He co-authored the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, which retroactively applied the Fair Sentencing Act, limited the use of juvenile solitary confinement and reduced mandatory minimums, among other important improvements.
The EQUAL Act was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).