Thursday, June 30, 2011

More good news - Fair Sentencing Act applied retroactively

Not long ago, I wrote about the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the disparity in sentencing for those convicted of crack vs powder cocaine. At the time, the U.S. Sentencing Commission was considering whether to apply the law retroactively to people currently in jail based on the old laws. Today they reached a decision.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to apply retroactively sentencing reform for crack cocaine convictions that Congress passed last year. This will give more than 12,000 inmates—85 percent of whom are black—the opportunity to go before a judge and seek a reduction in their sentences. The Commission estimates that the decision will reduce sentences by an average of more than three years, and could save the government $200 million in the next five years.

In addition to celebrating this success, its interesting to note what Jesselyn McCurdy, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union said about the role of Attorney General Eric Holder.

McCurdy says Attorney General Eric Holder’s personal testimony was an encouraging sign. While he only advocated for limited retroactivity, “He came and testified himself. We felt like that was a signal this was an important issue for him.”

She added that Holder was “bucking the trend,” and a letter from the Association of Assistant United States Attorneys in opposition to retroactivity is a sign Holder is facing internal pressure. (The main argument of that group seems to be that U.S. attorneys worked hard to put these people in jail, so don’t let them out.)

This is yet another example of the one small step-at-a-time progress being made. So when someone wants to tell you that President Barack Obama and his administration haven't done anything for the African American community (yeah, I'm looking at you Cornell West), tell them about this...and this, and this.

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