Press Release  | 06/01/2007

Senator Jeff Sessions, Congressman Artur Davis Join Local and National Advocates at Birmingham Town Hall Meeting on Sentencing Reform

Disparities in Federal Sentences for Crack and Powder Cocaine Tear Apart Families, Promote Racial Disparities
Advocates and Community Members Demand Fairness in Sentencing, Treatment for Drug Addiction as Sessions, Davis Lead Bi-Partisan Congressional Effort for Reform

Birmingham - On Saturday, June 2, 2007, Senator Jeff Session (R-Alabama) and Congressman Artur Davis (D-7th District, AL) join the local organization The Ordinary People's Society (TOPS) and national groups Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU in a Town Hall meeting about federal sentencing reform. Current federal sentencing policies related to crack and powder cocaine have proven to be ineffective and discriminatory. Sen. Sessions and Rep. Davis are working with state and national advocates to pass bipartisan reforms. This event is open to the public and the press.

  • What: Town Hall Meeting: Incarceration Nation --Crack vs. Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities
  • Who:
    Senator Jeff Sessions (R - AL)
    Congressman Artur Davis, (D - Birmingham)
    Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, Executive Director of TOPS (Dothan, AL)
    Dr. Foster Cook, Director, UAB - Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities
    Deborah Vagins, Policy Council for Civil Rights, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
    Barry Hargrove, Field Organizer, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
  • When: 9:00am - 1:00pm, Saturday, June 2, 2007
  • Where: Church of the Reconciler - 112 14th Street, North - Birmingham, AL

About the crack / powder cocaine disparity:

Currently, distributing just five grams of crack carries a minimum five-year federal prison sentence, while distributing 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence. Despite repeated recommendations by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Congress has not addressed this 100:1 sentencing disparity, which has devastated African-American communities and undermined faith in the criminal justice system. African-Americans comprise the vast majority of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses, although whites and Hispanics form the majority of crack users.

"These laws highlight the unjust racial disparities that are pervasive in our nation's drug policies," said Reverend Kenneth Glasgow, Executive Director of The Ordinary People's Society. "What our communities need is treatment, not incarceration. I'm glad to see Sen. Sessions and Rep. Davis working together to create fairness, but I hope they don't forget about treatment in the process."

A 2006 ACLU report found no medical or legal justification for the unfair sentencing disparity ratio, because crack and cocaine are two forms of the same drug. Although Congress' stated intent was to target high-level cocaine traffickers, the result has been just the opposite - a 2002 USSC report found that only 15 percent of federal cocaine traffickers can be classified as high-level, while over 70 percent of crack defendants have low-level involvement in drug activity, such as street level dealers, couriers, or lookouts.

Kenneth Glasgow at (334) 791-2433 or Ken Collins at (205) 240-6850