A Christian prison ministry has commended the United States House of Representatives for passing a bill that seeks to eliminate a disparity regarding drug possession penalties.
Known as the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act, or H.R. 1693, the bill passed the House on Tuesday by a bipartisan vote of 361 to 66.
If enacted, the EQUAL Act would lower the criminal penalties for federal crack cocaine offenses to the same level as penalties for powder cocaine offenses, ending a major disparity in the law.
Prison Fellowship, a national Christian ministry, has expressed their support for the passage of the bill, having lobbied for the proposed legislation for the past several months.
Heather Rice-Minus, senior vice president of advocacy and church mobilization at Prison Fellowship, told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday that she believed the House passing the bill was “long overdue.”
“We are prioritizing the EQUAL Act as a federal piece of legislation we want to see passed because we believe that the disparity in how we punish crack versus powdered cocaine is disproportional for all Americans,” explained Rice-Minus.
“In addition to that, we know that historically it has had a really devastating effect on black communities in particular. So we want to see that changed and remedied and we believe that now the time in fact is long overdue.”
In January, Prison Fellowship joined FAMM (which formerly went by the spelled out name Families Against Mandatory Minimums) to launch a social media campaign on behalf of H.R. 1693 with #endthedisparity on Twitter.
“They, along with us, have been lobbying members of Congress, our staff has been going out,” Rice-Minus told CP. “We’ve been doing lots of outreach to educate members of Congress and their staff about why this is so important and we’ve been getting constituents involved to share why they care about this for their own community.”
Rice-Minus was optimistic about the fate of the legislation in the Senate, telling CP that she viewed “this vote we just had in the House” as a “mandate” that “really does send a message to the Senate.”
“I think whether as a standalone bill or as part of a criminal justice package, one way or another, we’re going to get this across the finish line and I think that members realize, as was evident in the House, that this is long overdue,” she added.
As part of their continued efforts to advance the EQUAL Act, Prison Fellowship plans to hold a congressional briefing on Friday, focused on the Senate side.