This is National Crack the Disparity Month. Never heard of it? Then listen.
Crack the Disparity is the name of a coalition lobbying to change the federal law mandating longer sentences to persons arrested for having crack cocaine than those caught with powder cocaine.
You get a mandatory sentence of five years in prison for getting caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine - the approximate weight of 2 sugar packets. It would take 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same sentence.
The uneven treatment strikes at the heart of the justice system. The stiff sentence for crack cocaine is one of the main reasons prisons are overflowing with nonviolent offenders.
The harsher sentences have had a terrible impact on inner-city neighborhoods, where the cheaper crack is more likely to be found. Families are torn apart when members are arrested and sent to prison for long terms.
Meanwhile, those arrested with powder cocaine, which is more likely in affluent settings where that form is more prevalent, get off light, in comparison.
Equal crimes should be punished equally. That's the message of the coalition, which will take 70 people to Washington tomorrow to lobby for an end to the disparity in cocaine sentencing.
Pennsylvania coalition members hope to meet with members of their congressional delegation, including Sens. Arlen Specter and Robert Casey, to ask them to support the proposed Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2009, which would finally eliminate the federal cocaine sentencing disparity.