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Congress moves toward equal sentencing

July 26, 2009 at 1:22 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. House and Senate are moving toward legislation to equalize sentencing for powder and crack cocaine, a Senate leader said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., mentioned the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Current laws allow for more severe sentences for crack than for powder cocaine. Since African-Americans use crack more than powder, they are disproportionately punished.

A House subcommittee approved a bill this week to equalize sentencing and the Senate Judiciary Committee is working on a similar proposal, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The Justice Department has begun a review of sentencing practices.

"We all know that this egregious difference in punishment is simply wrong," Attorney General Eric Holder told the National Association of Black Prosecutors in a speech Wednesday. "The Department of Justice will never back down from its duty to protect our citizens and our neighborhoods from drugs, or from the violence that all too often accompanies the drug trade. But we must discharge this duty in a way that protects our communities as well as the public's confidence in the justice system."

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