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NAACP Supports Applying the Decision by the US Sentencing Commission to Reduce Mandatory Sentences for People Convicted of Crack Cocaine Possession Retroactively to Those Already in Prison and Reiterates Support for Eliminating the Sentencing Disparity

Full Resolution Title: NAACP Supports Applying the Decision by the US Sentencing Commission to Reduce Mandatory Sentences for People Convicted of Crack Cocaine Possession Retroactively to Those Already in Prison and Reiterates Support for Completely Eliminating the Crack/Power Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

WHEREAS, the NAACP has consistently supported and continues to strongly support the complete elimination of the federal sentencing disparity for conviction of crack cocaine possession versus possession of powder cocaine; and

WHEREAS, the United States Sentencing Commission has steadfastly sought to eliminate the racially discriminatory sentencing laws mandating that a conviction for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine is equivalent to one for 500 grams of powder cocaine; and

WHEREAS, crack cocaine and powder cocaine are pharmacologically indistinguishable; and

WHEREAS, the result of this 100-to-1 sentencing ratio has been the incarceration of a vastly disparate number of African Americans and Americans of Hispanic origin. Specifically, despite the fact that cocaine use is approximately proportional among the different populations of our Nation, more than 82% of those currently in prison for federal crack cocaine convictions are African Americans and 96% are racial or ethnic minorities; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP commends the Sentencing Commission for its May 2007 amendments to sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine which will have the effect of lowering the guideline sentencing range for certain categories of offenses and offenders. While it is not all that we have been advocating for, it is an important first step; and

WHEREAS, the Commission's recent amendment which will, on average, trim over 15 months from current crack sentences; and

WHEREAS, a decision to make this amendment retroactive will impact roughly 19,500 men and women currently in jail; and

WHEREAS, it only makes sense that a person who was sentenced between October 1, 1991 and June 30, 2007 should not have to spend more time in prison than those sentenced after November 1, 2007, simply because they had the misfortune of being sentenced at the wrong time; and

WHEREAS, a failure to apply the reduction in sentences retroactively, however, as has been done in the past relative to LSD, marijuana and oxycodone – all of which has benefited other groups more so than African Americans – would perpetuate and perhaps even intensify the image of injustice that currently exists among African Americans and others in relation to the crack cocaine sentencing disparity and other aspects of the American criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS, United States' Attorney General Mukasey's characterization of people currently in prison for crack cocaine convictions, and of the impact that a potential reduction in their sentences could have on our communities, is not only wrong, but it is disingenuous, alarmist and plays on the worst fears and stereotypes many Americans had of crack cocaine users in the 1980s; and

WHEREAS, a federal judge will be called on to review each case individually and take into account if there were other factors involved in the conviction, whether it be the use of a gun, violence, or the defendant's criminal history before determining if the retroactivity can apply;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly supports making the May 2007 amendment by the US Sentencing Commission to decrease the amount of time an individual sentenced to prison for crack cocaine possession to comply with current powder cocaine sentencing ranges retroactive to those currently incarcerated for crack cocaine convictions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP commends, supports and appreciates all of the efforts by the US Sentencing Commission to eliminate the crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity which has resulted in too many African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and the poor in prison today; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP reiterates its strong support for one-to- one sentencing ranges for crack and powder cocaine convictions consistent with existing powder cocaine sentences.

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