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Friday, May 20, 2005

Will Gov. Rell sign the bill?

The Senate voted 21-to-16 to approved bill (H.B. 6635) which will equalize the mandatory sentances for selling crack and powder cocaine.

From The Haven Register:

Current law sets the same mandatory minimum sentences for possession or sale of half a gram of crack cocaine as for possession of an ounce of powdered cocaine.

The bill approved by the General Assembly would equalize the thresholds for triggering mandatory minimum sentences for both types of cocaine at one ounce.

Critics of the current law say its discrepancies have contributed to racial discrimination in sentencing, since crack is often called the drug of choice for inner-city minorities while powdered cocaine is favored by more affluent white drug abusers.

"That racial disparity (in the prisons) didn’t exist before we had these drug laws," said state Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven.

State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said that 50 percent of the people arrested in Connecticut on drug charges are white, but that only 10 percent of the them charged with drug offenses end up in prison.

The rate of incarceration for drug defendants who are minorities is closer to 90 percent, according to McDonald, who is co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Half a gram of crack cocaine costs $20-50 on the streets, said McDonald, while the street value for an ounce of powdered cocaine is between $1,400 and $2,800.

Gov. Rell has not commented personally on this issue or given an indication if she would sign or veto the bill.