Trying to keep a campaign promise to make drug sentencing more fair, the Obama administration issued a statement through US Attorney General Eric Holder to the US Sentencing Commission this week to amend its guidelines to reduce sentences for crack offenses. The harsh prison sentences that are levied against crack defendants in comparison to other cocaine users has long been a source of contempt among defense lawyers and civil rights activists because the sentences disproportionately impact minorities.
US Attorney General Holder said that the Obama administration not only wants to lower crack sentencing guidelines, but also wants to make the relief retroactive, a move that could reduce the sentences and affect 12,000 inmates that may get released much, much earlier than they expected. Holder issued the statement on the matter at a hearing of the Sentencing Commission, who must authorize retroactive application of the more lenient sentences. According to the Wall Street Journal, people convicted of crack cocaine offenses would be released over the next three years. Holder said at a news conference on Wednesday, “As years of experience and study have shown, there is simply no just or logical reason why [crack] punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders,”
The Fair Sentencing Act is considered an historic step forward by equaling out the disparity between penalties for crack and powered cocaine offenses, but realizing they have more to do than just pass this legislation going forward, justice needs to come to those that are being affected by those unfair sentences now. Just twelve months ago, before the fair sentencing act, a person caught with 50 grams of crack cocaine was assumed a dealer and would have to spend 10 years mandatory inside a prison. Today, that same sentence is about half of that, or five years. This would affect the federal prisoners only, or about 1 in 18 federal prisoners that could see an early release. Statistics bear out that black drug offenders are more likely to be charged with a federal crack offense than other offenders.