Group pushes to end disparity in cocaine sentences

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group that advocates for criminal justice reform is urging states to remove disparities between how people are sentenced for crack and powder cocaine possession.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed legislation that reduced the federal sentencing disparity between the two types of cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. Before Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, someone caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine had received the same sentence as someone caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine.

Thirteen states have sentencing laws that treat the drugs differently. Only two — Missouri at 75-to-1 and New Hampshire at 28-to-1 — have ratios higher than the U.S. government’s.

The Washington-based Sentencing Project on Thursday urged states to get rid of the disparities, citing fairness and potential savings in prison budgets.

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