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Federal Inmate Petitions Congress to Eliminate Outrageous Crack Cocaine Disparity

Steffany “Stet” Frazier was convicted in 1994 of crack cocaine possession with the intent to sell, and was given a life sentence under the harsh edicts of the drug war and the 100-to-one crack cocaine sentencing ratio. This ratio—which has since been lowered—resulted in harsher penalties for defendants who sold crack, than those caught with larger amounts of powder cocaine. The disparity targeted African American men at troubling rates, due to the hysteria around the crack epidemic

Congress has since reduced the crack cocaine sentencing disparity from 100-to-one to 18-to-one with the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) of 2010. Now 48 years old, Frazier—who has served 23 years of his life sentence—is appealing to Congress to make the change retroactive.

With the last of former President Obama's sentence commutations granted in January, prisoners like Frazier feel like they've been forgotten, left to rot in prison serving unfair sentences under laws that are no longer used in federal court today. 

“Those of us under the crack cocaine disparity are petitioning Congress,” Frazier told Final Call. “The reason is because every branch of the United States government has said that the crack cocaine disparity targeted one race of people." Now, he says, he's doing everything he can "to get these first time, non-violent offenders home, who are serving life sentences for crack cocaine." 

Frazier started a petition, Eliminate the 100-to-1 Crack Cocaine Disparity, to address the problem and raise public awareness. He filed the petition on behalf of prisoners in 70 institutions, seeking to persuade Congress to apply the Fair Sentencing Act "to all federal prisoners still serving mandatory minimum sentences under the old 100-to-one ratio."

His petition also urges Congress to take the FSA a step further and make the ratio one-to-one—saying the current 18-to-one ratio "does not reflect the fact that crack and powder cocaine are the same drug in different forms, and that crack cocaine crimes are still punished more harshly than powder cocaine offenses."

A model inmate and practicing Muslim, Frazier has made this his life's mission. After failing to receive a commutation from Obama, he knew that something had to be done.

“Once I was denied clemency, January 6, 2016, it really, shocked the whole institution, including staff members, because they know with my record and the things that I have been doing throughout the system, they know that if anybody could have got it (clemency) it was supposed to be me,” he recalled.

With help from his cousin, Corry LeBenjamin Hayward, a Florida lawyer, Frazier is attempting to bring justice for those that deserve clemency but remain in prison today. “Hopefully, our efforts will bring exposure to the thousands of men and women who are serving life sentences for crack versus cocaine kingpins caught with tons of cocaine, but only receive a slap on their wrists and are released from custody,” Hayward said.

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