California has adopted legislation that will eliminate drug sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine possession convictions.
The disparity is found to disproportionately burden people of color, and contribute to racial discrimination in the state’s prison system.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed on the California Fair Sentencing Act, the text of which asserts, “To mete out unequal punishment for the same crime (e.g., possession for sale of a particular form of cocaine), is wholly and cruelly unjust.”
The legislation was written and introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell, a California senate Democrat from Los Angeles who also chairs the California Legislative Black Caucus.
“We must break the drug-driven cycle of arrest, lock-up, unemployability and re-arrest,” said Mitchell in a statement. “The law isn’t supposed to be a pipeline that disproportionately channels the young, urban and unemployed into jail and joblessness.”
“Whether sold as crack or powder, used on the street or in a corporate penthouse, the penalty for cocaine use should be the same for everybody,” Mitchell said previously of her legislation. “My bill establishes fairness in sentencing.”
Supporters hailed the bill as a significant piece of penal reform that constitutes and national effort to cut back on some of the legal penalties introduced into the criminal justice system over that last 10 years by practices known as the “War on Drugs.”
Currently, 12 other states have laws with sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine. According to sponsors of the bill, between 2005 and 2010, blacks made up 77 percent of California’s sentencing for crack possession.
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