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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Compromise reached

From The Day
In an effort to remedy the racial disparity in mandatory drug sentences, the state Senate Wednesday passed an amended bill to equalize the amounts of crack and powder cocaine that would trigger those sentences.

Current law provides a mandatory sentence of five years in prison for possession of one ounce of powder cocaine or a half-gram of crack. Legislators have said that because inner-city blacks and Hispanics are more likely to use crack cocaine, while suburban whites are more likely to use powder, more than 80 percent of those in prison under the law are either black or Hispanic.

Under the bill, the amount of crack and powder that would set off the mandatory sentence would be equalized at a half-ounce.

The action came after Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed an earlier version of the bill because she felt the proposed amounts of the drugs that would trigger the mandatory sentence –– an ounce in each case –– were too high.

Dennis Schain, director of communications for the governor's office, said Rell would sign the bill into law.

“This bill is exactly the compromise the governor proposed,” he said. “It is an approach that ends the disparity in sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine in a manner that does not send a bad signal that we're easing enforcement of our drug laws. The governor plans on signing it. ...”