Pelavin: The imprisonment of crack cocaine offenders for disproportionate, excessive prison stays erodes communities’ faith in the fairness of our criminal justice system.
Contact: Kate Bigam or Rebecca Katz
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 19, 2010 – In response to the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Fair Sentencing Act (S. 1789) to reduce the disparity in penalties for possession of crack and powder cocaine, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We are pleased by the Senate’s approval of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reforms federal crack cocaine sentencing. For too long, the 100:1 disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine has had a significant and unequal impact on the application of justice in our nation. The quantity of crack cocaine needed to trigger a mandatory minimum prison sentence has been exponentially less than powder cocaine, despite their pharmacological equivalency. The Senate-passed bill will address this imbalance, and direct federal resources toward large-scale drug traffickers and violent offenders.
The imprisonment of crack cocaine offenders for disproportionate, excessive prison stays erodes communities’ faith in the fairness of our criminal justice system. As Jews, we are taught “tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” to seek justice and pursue it. A criminal justice system that applies sentences disproportionately or unfairly is far from just. Although an equal ratio in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine would be strongly preferable, the reduction to the 18:1 ratio constitutes an enormous step forward. We commend Senate leadership for passage of this important bill, and encourage the House to move forward with companion legislation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.