Bill to End Racial Disparities in Connecticut Hits Governor
HARTFORD--Yesterday, a bill that would eliminate the disparity in Connecticut's crack and powder cocaine law passed in the Senate, setting the stage for Governor M. Jodi Rell to sign it into law. Currently, it takes 28 grams (28g) of powder cocaine to trigger the same mandatory minimum sentence as only half a gram of crack, even though they are two forms of the same drug. According to the United States Sentencing Commisson's 2002 Report, nearly 85% of persons convicted of crack cocaine penalties were black.
In a letter dated December 22nd, 2004, addressed to a group called Vecinos Unidos a member of the Connecticut Alliance, a coalition of community organizations which has fought to eliminate the crack/powder disparity, Gov. Rell promised to take swift action against any racism that she encountered during her tenure. She wrote, "If I hear of racism occurring in state government I will take swift action. Together, with you and other community leaders, we can take a stand against racism and aggressive action to mitigate its harmful effects."
"We appreciate Gov. Rell's commitment to addressing institutionalized racism," said Robert Rooks of the Connecticut Alliance. "She can keep her word by signing this legislation, which would rectify a longstanding bias that has had a devastating impact on communities of color."
H. B. No. 6635 (RAISED) (File No. 531), an act concerning the illegal sale or possession of cocaine with intent to sell, is co-sponsored by Connecticut legislators State Rep Marie Kirkley-Bey, (D - Hartford) and Faith McMahon, (D, Bloomfield). H. B. No. 6635 calls for the amount of cocaine that subjects a person to a stiff mandatory minimum sentence to be one ounce or more regardless of whether the cocaine is crack or powder cocaine. This legislation was supported by Connecticut's Black and Latino Caucus.
Connecticut is currently one of thirteen states with major crack and powder cocaine sentencing distinctions. "The legislature has spoken. This is an obvious fairness issue, and we fully expect the Governor to do the right thing and sign this into law," said Michael Blain, of the Drug Policy Alliance.