Statement from ColorOfChange.org Regarding Upcoming US Sentencing Commission Hearing on Retroactive Relief for People Serving Harsh Sentences for Crack Cocaine Offenses
June 1, 2011
OAKLAND, Calif. – The following is a statement from Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, regarding the United States Sentencing Commission’s upcoming hearing to consider whether the 2010 crack cocaine guideline reduction should be applied retroactively to people already serving federal prison sentences for crack:
“Thousands of ColorOfChange.org members would like to know why people are still behind bars serving lengthy sentences, when they were put there by laws that are now agreed to have been unjust. We are asking the Sentencing Commission, which issues sentencing guidelines to federal judges, to provide relief for more the more than 12,000 people in that very situation. Members of the Commission should vote as soon as possible to apply the guideline retroactively, and bring us one step closer to justice in the decades-long effort to end the unconscionable disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses.
“The Fair Sentencing Act that Congress passed last summer only applies to people who were sentenced for a crack offense after November 1, 2010. It’s a step in the right direction, but it does nothing to help those who were sentenced before then and who are still being kept away from their families and loved ones. The U.S. Sentencing Commission should right the wrongs that Congress made more than two decades ago and apply the new sentencing guideline to those who are currently in federal prison because the old laws put them there.”
The United States Sentencing Commission will host a hearing today to consider whether the new sentencing guideline, part of the implementation of the Fair Sentencing Act, should be applied retroactively. In the run-up to the hearing on the issue, the Commission asked for public input. Last week, ColorOfChange reached out to its members to sign a petition asking the Commission to make this change. Currently, the petition has more than 9,000 signatures. The petition and its signatures were delivered to the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Friday, May 27th.
In July 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses to 18:1. The new law didn’t achieve what more than 59,000 ColorOfChange members have called for over a span of two years – the elimination of the disparity altogether. The new law also was not made retroactive. However, the FSA is significant in that our justice system no longer treats crack, which is often found in low-income black communities, as if it were 100 times worse than powder cocaine. Under the previous policy, offenders caught with only five grams of crack cocaine were given a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to result in the same sentence.
With more than 750,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest African American online political organization.
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