E-NEWS - 2010

Criminal Justice Reforms Move Forward in Congress

Harsh sentences, especially for non-violent drug convictions, have created massively overcrowded detention facilities across the United States. In these prisons and jails, sexual abuse and other forms of violence flourish. JDI believes that drug sentencing reform is urgently needed to improve inmate safety. Prisoner rape survivors are often individuals with no significant history of criminal or violent behavior who, were it not for harsh laws created as part of the "war on drugs," would have been afforded leniency in the sentencing process.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that addresses some of the harshest drug sentences. The Fair Sentencing Act will significantly reduce the disparity between federal sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses. Under what is often referred to as the "100-to-one ratio," the possession of five grams of crack cocaine currently triggers the same mandatory five-year minimum sentence as the possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The new bill does not equate crack with powder cocaine, but creates a sentencing ratio of 18-to-one; it also repeals the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. The Senate has already approved similar legislation, and the bill now awaits President Obama's signature.

JDI applauds the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act as an important step forward, and urges President Obama to sign it promptly.

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