Compromise Bill to End Racial Disparities in Drug Sentencing Hits Connecticut Governor
HARTFORD - After Governor M. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the disparity in Connecticut's crack and powder cocaine law by imposing mandatory minimums at 28 grams, the Governor is now poised to sign a compromise bill that would impose mandatory minimums for both at 14 grams. 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 African American - despite the fact that more whites than blacks use crack cocaine.
"This is an important first step," said Robert Rooks of the Connecticut Alliance, "But the war on drugs continues to devastate communities of color. The momentum of this win will be carried into next year's battle against systemically racist policies, including mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses."
Connecticut is currently one of thirteen states with major crack and powder cocaine sentencing distinctions. At the federal level, similar disparities exist: the federal government treats small amounts (5 grams) of crack cocaine in the same way as they do large amounts (500 grams) of powder cocaine. Representative Charles Rangel, (D-NY), along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, has re-introduced into Congress the Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2005 (HR 2456). His bill would treat the two forms of cocaine the same way in federal sentencing.
"While Governor Rell should not have needed this 'compromise' to sign a bill for racial justice, this is a step forward. Given the racial disparities in Connecticut created by mandatory minimums, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done both in Connecticut and nationally," said Michael Blain, Director of Public Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We will work alongside the people of Connecticut and around the country in order to end these sentencing disparities and mandatory minimums."