Crack Cocaine Sentencing

Anyone convicted of possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in federal court. A person has to have 500 grams of powder cocaine to qualify for the same minimum. Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is leading the Congressional charge to change that disparity. Jodi Breisler reports from Capitol Hill.

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The Supreme Court says judges should be able to give a shorter sentence than the federal mandates for crack possession. The U.S. Sentencing Commission says that should apply to those already serving time. Jackson Lee says the Commission wants Congress to act.

"The body that was in essence designed by this government to provide guidance to the federal legal system has called out a challenge to the United States Congress in essence to do our job."

Jackson Lee is sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would decrease the mandatory sentence for non-violent crack possessors to match that of those who have powder cocaine. Another disparity concern is that more than 80 percent of people convicted of crack cocaine crimes are black.

From Capitol News Connection in Washington, I'm Jodi Breisler, Houston Public Radio News.