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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

Teachers across the U.S. protest laws restricting racism lessons

Thousands of teachers and other educators held protests across the U.S. Saturday against the actions of "at least 15 Republican-led states" that aim to restrict teaching about racism in class, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: There were demonstrations in at least 22 cities for the "Day of Action" to raise awareness about moves to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, which links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system, per Axios' Russell Contreras.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

Lawsuit challenging Houston Methodist's COVID vaccine mandate dismissed

Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 117 Houston Methodist staff over the hospital's policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: This is the first federal court ruling on a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Attorney Jared Woodfill, representing the plaintiffs, told KHOU 11 it's "the first battle in a long fight," as he vowed to file another lawsuit soon.

G7 leaders to announce plan to phase out gasoline cars

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks next to President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England, on Saturday. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

G7 leaders are set to announce Sunday a range of measures to tackle climate change, including "ending almost all direct government support" for fossil fuels and phasing out gasoline and diesel cars.

Driving the news: The plan was outlined in a British government announcement Saturday, which states that the leaders will also agree to halting "all unabated coal as soon as possible."