Dear Senator:

On September 28 the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 361 to 66, to finally end the federal sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses. Now the Senate has the opportunity to pass the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act and significantly improve fairness, proportionality, and racial justice within the  federal criminal legal system. The Justice Roundtable and its undersigned coalition partners urge you to support this critical sentencing reform legislation and ask Senate leaders to prioritize the EQUAL Act for an immediate floor vote.

Mandatory minimums have plagued communities for too long and there is a weak relationship between high incarceration rates and low crime rates for drug offenses. This month marks the 35th anniversary of the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which created the harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, including the 100:1 disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses that triggered a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for selling 5 grams of crack cocaine versus 500 grams of powder cocaine. The law accelerated the War on Drugs and the prosecution and incarceration of Black Americans.

These extreme federal penalties persisted despite an abundance of evidence from the medical and scientific community that there is no difference between the two forms of the substance that would justify the sentencing disparity. The result was one of the most unjust and unfair sentencing practices created in the U.S. In 2010, a unanimous Senate approved the Fair Sentencing Act which ended the five-year mandatory minimum for possession of five grams of crack and increased the amount of crack required for a mandatory sentence. The changes reduced the crack to powder cocaine sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1.

While this isn’t the final step in addressing the harm caused by mandatory minimums for drug offenses, this legislation will offer sentencing relief to thousands of people in federal prisons and reduce some of the overwhelming burden of the War on Drugs on Black Americans. The EQUAL Act would also bring the federal justice system more in line with the vast majority of states that do not punish crack and powder cocaine differently.

We commend Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Rand  Paul (R-KY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for their bipartisan collaboration in championing this urgent bill.

We ask that you co-sponsor this legislation, and urge that the EQUAL Act be passed immediately.

For questions, please contact the Justice Roundtable’s sentencing reform working group co chairs: Nkechi Taifa, [email protected], Aamra Ahmad, [email protected], or Kara  Gotsch, [email protected].


A Little Piece Of Light

AIDS Alabama

American Civil Liberties Union

Black & Pink National

The Braxton Institute

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

CAN-DO Foundation

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants)

Defending Rights & Dissent

Dream Corps JUSTICE

Drug Policy Alliance


Federal Public and Community Defenders

Healing Equity and Liberation (HEAL) Organization

Health in Justice Action Lab

Human Rights Watch

Innocence Project

Justice Action Network

Justice Strategies

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


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