Fair Sentencing Now

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California is one of only 12 states, along with the federal government, that maintains a disparity in sentencing for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. Whatever their intended goal, disparate sentencing guidelines for two forms of the same drug results in a pattern of institutional racism, with longer prison sentences given to blacks, who are more likely than whites or Latinos to be arrested and incarcerated for cocaine base (crack) offenses compared to powder cocaine offenses – even though the rates of crack use among different racial and ethnic groups are roughly equal. California needs to equalize sentencing, probation eligibility and asset forfeiture guidelines for the two types of cocaine.

It is long time to eliminate the groundless disparity in sentencing for the possession of cocaine base for sale versus the same crime involving powder cocaine.

Call Governor Jerry Brown today at 916-445-2841 and ask him to equalize sentencing guidelines for crack and powder cocaine.

Drug Properties:
Crack and powder cocaine are two forms of the same drug.  Scientific evidence, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, demonstrates that they have identical physiological and psychoactive effects on the human body.  Cocaine base (crack) is derived from cocaine powder processed with an alkali, typically baking soda.  Gram for gram, there is less active drug in cocaine base than in powder cocaine being sold on the black market.

Drug Use and Selling:
Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.

  • Blacks comprise 6.2 percent of California’s population. In 2010, blacks represented more than 18 percent of all felony drug arrests made in the state.
  • Latino youth are vastly more likely to be arrested for felony drug law violations than any other racial/ethnic group. In 2010, California arrested 6,197 young men and women under the age of 18 for a felony drug offense. More than half (3,454 – or 55.7 percent) were Latinos.

Current Disparity in CA Sentencing:

  • Minimum Years: The punishment for possession of powder cocaine or heroin for sale is 2, 3 or 4 years.
    • The punishment for the same crime that involves cocaine base is 3, 4, or 5 years.

We aim to equalize the penalties for either form of cocaine to the current standard for powder of 2, 3, or 4 years.

  • Probation: Existing law provides that, except in unusual cases, probation shall not be granted to, nor shall the execution or imposition of sentence be suspended for a person convicted of:
    • Possession for Sale:
      • Cocaine powder: less than 28.5 grams,
      • Cocaine base: less than 14.25 grams
    • Selling:
      • Cocaine powder: less than 28.5 grams
      • Cocaine base: Any amount

We aim to equalize the penalties for either form of cocaine. Probation would not be granted to, nor shall the execution or imposition of sentence be suspended for, any person convicted of possessing for sale or selling a substance containing 28.5 grams or more of cocaine powder or cocaine base, or 57 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine powder or cocaine base.

  • Asset Forfeiture: Existing law generally provides that the interest of any registered owner of a boat, airplane, or any vehicle used as an instrument to facilitate the manufacture of, or possession for sale, or sale of, 14.25 grams or more of cocaine base or 28.5 grams or more of cocaine powder is subject to forfeiture.

We aim to equalize the asset forfeiture guidelines at 28.5 grams for either cocaine or cocaine base.

Race and Cocaine Convictions:
According to statistics provided by the California’s Attorney General, in the year 2000:

  • 63 white men and women were convicted of possessing cocaine base for sale; and
  • 1,163 black men and women were convicted of the same crime.

This is a disparity ratio of 18.5-to-1.

A similar disparity was found in 2001:

  • 54 whites were convicted of possessing cocaine base for sale; and
  • 1,109 blacks were convicted of the same crime.

History
In 2004, Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally introduced similar legislation (AB 2274), which ultimately was not successful. At that time, Assembly Appropriations estimated savings in excess of $15 million.

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