Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roosevelt University SSDP Students Advocate for Fair Sentencing

One of the most important things SSDP chapters can do is to create a public space for dialog to effect real changes in the community. Roosevelt University SSDP did an awesome job this week highlighting the work they have been doing and getting others engaged in the current drug policy debate - and they even got some press out of it.

Specifically, students came together to discuss the importance of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act after meeting with US Senator Dick Durbin's staff to discuss the topic. (Durbin, D-IL, introduced the bill in 2009 - S. 1789.) On March 17th, it passed the US Senate by unanimous consent! We do still need this to pass in the House as well, but the outlook is positive.

The Fair Sentencing Act would do away with the 1986 Mandatory Minimum Sentences for crack cocaine possession. Currently individuals in possession of crack cocaine must serve a minimum sentence 100 times that of those in possession of powder cocaine. This act would reduce that disparity to 18-1. Not ideal, but at least a little better.

According to Laura Reichel, President of Roosevelt University SSDP, “The rates of drug use across racial groups is pretty equal. But the previous law has contributed to the disproportionate number of African-Americans that are in prison to whites.”

The racial implications of our failed drug policies is blatant. Kudos to Roosevelt SSDP for doing something about it!

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