Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Disparity
Powder cocaine has been available since the 19th century. In the 1980s, crack cocaine—made from powder cocaine, baking soda, and boiling water—appeared on American streets. Although both forms of cocaine are nearly identical chemically and have similar effects, Congress set vastly different penalties for the drugs. From 1986 to 2010, it took 100 times more powder cocaine than crack cocaine to trigger the same federal mandatory minimum sentences. While Congress reduced this "100:1" disparity in 2010, it remains at "18:1" today.
Prison Fellowship® and the criminal justice reform advocacy group FAMM have partnered to launch the #EndTheDisparity campaign fix this inconsistency in federal law, which has increased overincarceration, especially among Black Americans. Now, Congress is considering the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act (not to be confused with the Equality Act), bipartisan legislation that addresses America’s current sentencing disparity for cocaine offenses.
But isn't crack cocaine more addictive than powder? Isn't crack cocaine linked to more violence? Why would we want less severe sentences for those convicted of crack cocaine crime? How exactly does this issue connect to race?
QUESTION: IS CRACK COCAINE MORE ADDICTIVE THAN POWDER?
QUESTION: IS CRACK COCAINE MORE LINKED TO VIOLENCE THAN POWDER COCAINE?
QUESTION: SHOULD WE CHANGE PUNISHMENTS FOR CRACK COCAINE CRIMES?
QUESTION: DOESN'T CRACK COCAINE CAUSE VIOLENCE?
QUESTION: HOW DOES THE COCAINE SENTENCING DISPARITY CONNECT TO RACE?
ABOUT HEATHER RICE-MINUS
Heather Rice-Minus is the senior vice president of advocacy and church mobilization at Prison Fellowship.
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