Updated Mar 18, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on bipartisan criminal justice reform

Axios co-founder Mike Allen and justice & race reporter Russ Contreras hosted a virtual event on drug sentencing disparities featuring Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and criminal justice reform advocate Matthew Charles.

Rep. Jeffries and Rep. Armstrong discussed bipartisan efforts to end the drug sentencing disparity between powder cocaine and crack cocaine and the impact this inequity has had across communities.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on the legacy of the War on Drugs: "America incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, including per capita China and Russia combined. It's a stain on our democracy...The disparate sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine has been a substantial part at the federal level of the overcriminalization issue that we have in America."
  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong on making sure the system metes out equal justice: "We don't have to be soft on crime. We just have to be smarter about how we deal with this, particularly with young adults, usually young men, oftentimes disproportionately minorities. There's a way to do this better."

Matthew Charles described how his experience of incarceration has shaped his advocacy on drug sentencing, and the inequities present in the system.

  • On visible racial disparities in incarceration: "I noticed that the majority of those that were arrested are, if not all of them that I saw at that the place that I was incarcerated, they were African-American."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top Segment with Justice Action Network president and executive director Holly Harris, who discussed the EQUAL Act legislation in Congress and a shift in public perception around drug sentencing.

  • "People understand that mass incarceration was not the answer for public safety because of a lot of the advocacy that our groups have done. But I think it's because every single American family is now somehow impacted by our broken justice system. We all know someone, a friend or family member who has served time behind bars or is struggling with addiction issues or mental health issues."

Thank you Justice Action Network for sponsoring this event.

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