The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Press Release - Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Civil Rights Groups Say Mukasey Is Using Sensationalistic Tactics in an Effort to Make Congress Overturn U.S. Sentencing Commission Ruling
For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Westbrook Simpson, 202.466.2061, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 7, 2008
This morning Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared before the House Judiciary Committee asking Congress to overturn a ruling by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that would reduce sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenders.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted in December to retroactively reduce lengthy sentences for those convicted of crack cocaine-related offenses over the last two decades, which disproportionately imprison African Americans and Latinos. The two forms of cocaine are chemically equal, but the current law places penalties for the two at a 100:1 ratio. Trafficking in five grams of crack cocaine carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence. Trafficking in less than 500 grams of powder cocaine carries a misdemeanor charge and a maximum sentence of just one year.
But in his prepared testimony, Mukasey sought to exploit stereotypes saying, "unless Congress acts by the March 3 deadline, nearly 1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide."
"Mukasey is using inflammatory code words to sensationalize a problem of justice and fairness that everyone in the criminal justice field knows should be rectified," said Leadership Conference on Civil Rights president Wade Henderson. "He's playing the race card. The Attorney General knows that the new guidelines would institute case by case judicial review to ensure that violent offenders stay behind bars."
The U.S. Sentencing Commission decision, effective March 3, 2008, makes an estimated 19,500 people in prison eligible to apply for a sentence reduction expected to average just over two years. Those who may be eligible will be released over a period of 30 years, resulting in no more than 2,200 people being released in any given year.
"This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Crack offenders will continue to serve their mandatory minimum sentences before becoming eligible to have their cases reviewed by a judge, who will determine if the individual should be released. Applying the same rules to crack offenders simply levels the playing field and makes the system fairer."