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Press Release


BROOKLYN, NY – Today, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued the following statement on the clemency actions taken by President Joe Biden. 

“The failed War on Drugs began more than 50 years ago when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse public enemy number one. At the time, there were an estimated 300,000 people incarcerated in America. Today, there are approximately 1.8 million, and they are disproportionately Black and Latino. 

Many have been incarcerated over the years for non-violent drug offenses lengthened due to the differential treatment of powder and crack cocaine and the unjust treatment of marijuana under federal law. It is a stain on our democracy that has fueled the epidemics of overcriminalization and mass incarceration, which have devastated lives, families and communities. 

Today, President Biden took additional steps forward in undoing the legacy of the failed War on Drugs by commuting the sentences of several individuals with non-violent drug offenses and pardoning additional Americans convicted of simple possession and use of marijuana. 

I commend the President for acknowledging that much more needs to be done to right these historic wrongs by urging Governors to follow the administration’s lead at the state level. Congress must continue this work by passing the EQUAL Act to help bring to life the principle of liberty and justice for all.”

The 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 resentencing under the new law. 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 2022, 78.8% 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.