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June 3, 2005

Connecticut Gov. vetoes bill to equalize crack/powder sentences

From this post at The Connecticut Law Blog, I see this disappointing news that Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have reduced the criminal penalties for possession of crack cocaine and equalized them with those for powder cocaine.  As this newspaper article details, Jesse Jackson had sent Rell a potent letter which stated that approving the bill would send a message "that Connecticut won't stand for a criminal justice policy that promotes any racial disparities."  (As noted here, the New York Times made a similar point in a recent editorial.) 

This official press release provides more details on the bill and Rell's decision, as well as letters Rell wrote to interested Connecticut officials to explain her decision.  Here's an interesting excerpt from the press release:

"Crack cocaine is one of the most dangerous, addictive drugs on the streets today, and is the source and cause of too much violence in our cities," Governor Rell said.  "Now is not the time to ease our law enforcement efforts."

At the same time, the Governor said, she understands and accepts the view voiced by many in the African American and Latino communities that there is a clear disparity in Connecticut prison populations as a result of current sentencing laws.  Accordingly, she is asking the General Assembly for a revised bill and is offering proposals to address the disparities to ensure that Connecticut's criminal justice system is more sensitive to the concerns of minorities.  "I have been deeply moved by the concerns and arguments that have been raised," Governor Rell said. "I have also listened to the many painful stories of racial disparities, and I intend to act to address them," Governor Rell said. "I want Connecticut in the forefront of this fight."...

In her veto message, the Governor proposed a new compromise bill – setting the threshold at one-half ounce (14 grams) for both crack and powder cocaine – and encouraged the legislature to approve such a change before the current session adjourns.

June 3, 2005 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

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