Jun 30 2011

ColorLines: 12K Prisoners Await Ruling Today on Crack Sentencing Reform

Newswire | Published 30 Jun 2011, 9:39 am | Comments Off on ColorLines: 12K Prisoners Await Ruling Today on Crack Sentencing Reform -

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A decision expected today from the U.S. Sentencing Commission could potentially free thousands of inmates convicted of crack felonies, if the commission decides to apply retroactively Congress’ 2010 reform of drug sentencing laws.

The Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law in August 2010, was an effort to reduce the huge disparity in punishment of those convicted with cocaine possession or use versus those caught with crack. The law gets rid of so-called “mandatory minimums” and knocks down the disparity in length of sentences from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. So punishment for crack offenders is now 18 times as harsh as it is for cocaine offenders.

“We hope that they will support full retroactivity for the over 12,000 people that would be eligible,” says Jesselyn McCurdy, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

There are three possible outcomes, McCurdy says. One, the commission could decide on full retroactive application of the law. Two, it could settle on limited retroactive application, meaning inmates with extensive criminal records or a weapon involved in their arrest would not be eligible, reducing the number eligible for release to 45 percent. Or three, it could decide to not allow retroactive application at all.

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