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The NAACP Supports the Complete Elimination of Racial Disparities Associated with Crack Cocaine Convictions

WHEREAS, after 18 years of NAACP congressional advocacy, on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, President Sarack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law; and

WHEREAS, this important legislation reduces the disparate mandatory minimum sentence for a federal conviction of crack cocaine possession from 100:1 down to 18:1; and

WHEREAS, as a direct result of the unwarranted disparity in sentencing, African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority Americans have been incarcerated at massively disparate rates; in 2006, 82% of those convicted and sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African American, even though African Americans make up only 15% of the population; and

WHEREAS, everyone seems to agree that crack cocaine use is higher among Caucasian Americans than any other racial or ethnic group - the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 60% of those who use crack cocaine are white. Yet in 2006, 82% of those convicted and sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African American. When you add in Hispanics, the percentage climbs to above 96%; and

WHEREAS, since enactment of the original law mandating 100:1 sentencing disparity, the 100:1 ratio has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on African American and Hispanic communities; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that the Fair Sentencing Act will result in 4,000 fewer Americans being imprisoned in 10 years; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP supported this legislation as an important first step toward completely eliminating this racially discriminatory sentencing disparity; and 

WHEREAS, the NAACP appreciates all of the hard work that has gone into this legislation, as well as the fact that it is the first time Congress has moved to reduce any mandatory minimum sentence in over 40 years; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP also recognizes and appreciates that everyone involved in the negotiations, most particularly Senators Durbin (IL) and Sessions (AL) as well as Representatives Bobby Scott (VA) and Dan Lungren (CA), seem to agree that the 100:1 sentencing disparity has had a hugely unfair and racially discriminatory impact on African Americans, Hispanic and other racial and ethnic minority Americans; and

WHEREAS, in May of 2002 the Sentencing Commission sent recommendations to Congress indicating the crack penalties that were based on beliefs about the drug's pharmacological association with violence were inaccurate; and

WHEREAS, numerous studies have concluded that the physiological and psychotropic effects of crack and powder cocaine are the same, and the drugs are now widely acknowledged  as pharmacologically indistinguishable; and

WHEREAS, incarceration rates in the United States are at historic highs, with a disproportionate number of prisoners in the United States being persons of color; and

WHEREAS, by applying the Fair Sentencing Act's crack cocaine penalties to all defendants, including those whose conduct predates the legislation's enactment, you will ensure that defendants are not sentenced under the old discriminatory sentencing disparity which was determined by even the U.S. Congress to be unfair; and

WHEREAS, if both the statute and guideline changes were made retroactive, U.S. Sentencing Commission estimates that as many as 24,000 people would be eligible to apply for and potentially receive relief over a 30-year period. Within the first year of retroactive implementation, as many as 7,000 people could be eligible for early release generating a cost savings of over $200 million in the first year alone; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP celebrates the work of the President and Congress to pass the Fair Sentencing Act and reduce the racial disparities between crack and powder cocaine sentences.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we will continue to push for the complete elimination of these disparities between crack and powder cocaine sentencing by making the crack cocaine sentencing equivalent to the current powdered cocaine range; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, until such a time that sentences for crack and powder cocaine are equalized, the NAACP supports the application of the sentencing guidelines as established under the Fair Sentencing Act to be applied retroactively to everyone convicted of crack cocaine possession, including those whose convictions predate enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act.

Derrick Lewis - Youth & College Hero

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