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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.

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.