On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland sent out a memo to all federal prosecutors telling them to end sentencing disparities in cases surrounding the distribution of crack and powder cocaine.
What’s long been an issue in the Black community has now made its way to get the justice system, the disparities of sentencing when it comes to crack cocaine v. Powdered cocaine.
It’s highly evident that crack cocaine possession has significantly impacted and led to the mass incarceration of Black people. For example, that possession of 28g of crack cocaine triggers a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, compared with 500g of powder cocaine, Axios reported.
Garland has come forward to prevent and hopefully end these disparities by instructing sentencing recommendations for crack cocaine defendants to be no different than defendants in powder cocaine cases.
“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,” DOJ spokesperson Aryele Bradford said in a statement, with the new guidelines to go into effect in 30 days.
The AG has also instructed prosecutors to reserve mandatory minimums for offenders who are violent or have a history of violence, as well as those who have “significant ties” to gangs or major drug trafficking organizations or which cause serious bodily injury or death, among other criteria, Axios reported.
The disparity in sentencing was a result of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which fueled the 100-to-1 disparity between the amount of powder and crack cocaine that results in a federal mandatory minimum sentence.
However, a little more than a decade ago, that act was diluted to 18-to-1. In 2018, the First Step Act made that reform retroactive.
President Biden was a senator at the time the 1986 act was created and supported it. However, during his presidency, he has since pushed to reverse it.