Fattah: Hate Crimes Vote, Justice Recommendation on Sentencing Will Advance Fairness, Equal Protection

April 29, 2009

WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) issues the following statement upon approval today by the House of Representatives for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, and on a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Justice to end disparity in sentencing for crimes involving crack and powder cocaine:

“Today — the 100th day of the Obama Administration — is a great day for advancing the cause of equal protection and justice in law for all Americans in two significant ways.

“I’m pleased to have advocated for and supported major legislation regarding hate crimes that won bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

“The man whose name is now associated with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, Matthew Shepard, was tortured and killed because he was gay. This crime wasn’t about him as an individual; it was about what he represented. Every day there are smaller incidences in neighborhoods around the country. Individuals are targeted coming out of certain bars, wearing certain clothes, or walking with too much flair. This is a systemic problem that requires a systemic approach.

“There is an important history lesson and legacy in today’s vote. For too long the federal government ignored the pleas of African Americans in the South who were systematically targeted for lynching and other heinous acts of brutality. House action on H.R. 1913 owes its existence in part to the brave work and example of famed writer, Ida B. Wells, and others who spoke out at that dangerous time.

“In addition I applaud the recommendation of the Justice Department to end the overt disparities found in the sentencing between those who use crack cocaine and those who use powdered cocaine.

“The law requires a mandatory sentence of five years without parole for possessing five grams of crack cocaine while possession of the same amount of powder cocaine is a misdemeanor and requires no prison time.

“This is decidedly unequal protection, resulting in sharp and horribly unfair racial inequity in punishment while unnecessarily clogging our court and prison systems. African Americans and Latinos are greater users of crack cocaine and have been harshly punished for crimes of the same nature as their white counterparts who use powder cocaine.

“I commend the Obama Administration’s efforts to restore basic fairness to federal sentencing policies relating to cocaine use.”

NOTE — In another legislative matter:

In addition to today’s vote Congressman Fattah is an original co-sponsor and strong supporter for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009. The bill, H.R. 1283, which is pending in the House, will replace the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah

Source: newswire

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