WASHINGTON — The Obama administration joined a federal judge Wednesday in urging Congress to end a racial disparity by equalizing prison sentences for dealing and using crack versus powdered cocaine.
"Jails are loaded with people who look like me," U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, an African-American, told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said the administration believes Congress' goal "should be to completely eliminate the disparity" in the two forms of cocaine.
"A growing number of citizens view it as fundamentally unfair," Breuer testified.
It takes 100 times more powdered cocaine than crack cocaine to trigger the same harsh mandatory minimum sentences. Congress enacted the disparity during an epidemic of crack cocaine in the 1980s, with lawmakers assuming that violence would be greater among those using crack.
Breuer said the best way to deal with violence is to punish anyone who commits a violent offense, regardless of the drug involved. The Associated Press