On Tuesday, a hearing will see lawmakers engaging with experts on the proposed EQUAL Act (i.e. the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act). Ahead of that hearing, per a report from Reuters’ Sarah N. Lynch, Biden’s Justice Department has submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee pointing to the “unwarranted racial disparities” brought on by the sentencing differences between crack and powder cocaine.
“We believe it is long past time to end the disparity in sentencing policy between federal offenses involving crack cocaine and those involving powder cocaine,” the department said, adding that current data shows that 87.5 percent of those serving federal time for “offenses primarily involving crack cocaine” are Black.
Biden, as pointed out in a separate Washington Post report form Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim on Monday, crafted a bill in 1986 that put in place stark sentencing differences that have disproportionately targeted Black citizens. And as the ACLU noted back in 2008, just two years after the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the myths surrounding crack cocaine have long been dispelled. The deeply harmful policy, however, has persisted.
Despite what the sentencing disparity approach would have you believe, there are zero pharmacological differences between powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Up until 2010, the sentencing disparity was 100 to 1. The law changed in 2010, resulting in a lower (but still harmful) disparity of 18 to 1.