U.S. representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and Maxine Waters (CA-43) announced today that they are leading all House Members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin to bring the EQUAL Act Bill (H.R. 1693) to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.
The Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act is a bipartisan legislation that was passed back in September of last year by a vote of 361 to 66. The purpose of the bill is to completely eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Under the current law, different threshold quantities of crack and powder cocaine trigger the same statutory criminal penalties. For example, this means that someone with possession of 28 grams of crack cocaine would face the same criminal penalty as someone in possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine.
According a press release from Reps. Jeffries and Waters, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine was 100 to 1 at one point, which was a contributing factor to 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,” said Reps. Jeffries and Waters in a statement.
“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.”
On top of removing the sentencing disparity completely, the bill would also look to ensure that those who have been sentenced or convicted for a federal offense that involves cocaine would be able to receive re-sentencing under the new law.
“In total, the EQUAL Act will reduce excessive prison time by 67,800 years,” the House Members said.
To view the full text of the letter sent by the Congressional Black Caucus, calling on Majority Leader Schumer and Chairman Durbin to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, you can go here.