Faith community hails House passage of legislation
to reduce sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine
July 30, 2010 -- Faith leaders applauded the U.S. Congress' approval
of legislation to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder
The House of Representatives approved by voice vote "The Fair Sentencing Act
of 2010," which passed the Senate in March. The bill now awaits President
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon,
general secretary of the National Council of Churches,
called the current approach to sentencing crack versus powder cocaine
unjust. "Its impact is devastating," he said.
Priorities are skewed, according to Kinnamon. He said churches and
communities are left to contend with the consequences of parents being
locked away from their children for long periods of time, and tax dollars
that could be used to pursue high-level "kingpins," who flush large amounts
of illicit substances onto the streets, are diverted to pursue low-level
"The uneven treatment of communities of color also increases the cynicism
with which many view the criminal justice system," Kinnamon said. "As a
result, any intended deterrent effect diminishes."
Sentencing Act of 2010" raises the minimum quantity of crack cocaine that
triggers a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence from 5 grams to 28 grams, and
from 50 grams to 280 grams to trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum
The amount of powder cocaine required to trigger the 5- and 10-year
mandatory minimums remains at 500 grams and 5 kilograms,
The new legislation eliminates the mandatory minimum for simple possession
of crack cocaine.
The quantity disparity between crack and powder cocaine moves from 100 to 1
to 18 to 1, reducing a disparity that has been in effect for more than two
According to estimates from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the changes to
the current penalties for crack cocaine offenses would affect nearly 3,000
defendants a year by reducing their average sentence 27 months. The
Commission projects that 10 years after enactment the changes could produce
a prison population reduction of about 3,800.
The bill's passage does not retroactively affect people currently serving
time for low-level crack cocaine offenses.
release issued yesterday by the United Methodist General Board of Church &
Society said United Methodists celebrate the passage of "The Fair Sentencing
Act of 2010" as a major step in the necessary direction to lessen the U.S.'s
ballooning prison population and address the injustice against African
Americans inherent in previous law.
Peggy Johnson, episcopal leader of the Eastern
Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences, said she is
"deeply committed to fairness in our criminal justice system" and regularly
sees its lack of fairness, particularly as it relates to the
disproportionate incarceration of people of color.
"The unfair sentencing for crimes such as crack offenses no doubt has
something to do with this reality," Bishop Johnson said. "Martin Luther King
Jr. once said that 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends
towards justice.' Today we have stepped closer to realizing fairness in our
criminal justice system."
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) welcomes the passage of the
Fair Sentencing Act, said Galen Carey, director of Government Affairs. "It
makes significant progress toward parity in criminal penalties for
possession and use of crack and powder cocaine," he said. "While not fully
equalizing penalties for the two drugs, the Fair Sentencing Act reduces the
disparity and will also reduce the cost to taxpayers of unnecessarily
Carey said NAE continues to advocate for comprehensive sentencing reform
that punishes criminals while advancing the public interest and requiring
criminals to provide restitution to their innocent victims.
Eliminating the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences has
been a 2010 legislative priority of the United Methodist General Board of
Church & Society, according to Bill Mefford, director of Civil & Human
Rights. Mefford has been working with an interfaith coalition to bring this
crucial reform to the
U.S.'s criminal justice system. For more
information, contact Bill Mefford (firstname.lastname@example.org) (email@example.com)
at (202) 488-5657.
Contact: Wayne Rhodes, Director of Communications,
(202) 488-5630 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of
the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for
ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's
36 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican,
Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace
churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local
congregations in communities across the nation.
NCC News contact:
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),