Obama seeks to change crack sentences
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is asking Congress to close the big gap in prison sentences for dealing crack versus powdered cocaine, a law that critics say is unfair to blacks.
Such sentencing reform efforts tend to focus on lowering the mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine possession, but in prepared testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer did not spell out exactly how the administration hopes to make the law more fair.
"The administration believes Congress' goal should be to completely eliminate the disparity in prison sentences between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine," Breuer said in written testimony to be delivered Wednesday.
Federal law now has what lawyers call a "100-to-1" ratio for cocaine sentences, in which a person selling five grams of crack faces the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as someone selling 500 grams of powder cocaine.
Critics of the law say it unfairly punishes black offenders, pointing to statistics showing 82 percent of federal crack cocaine convicts were black, while nine percent were white.
President Barack Obama had called for such a change while campaigning for the White House.
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