Victory: Retroactive Federal Crack Sentencing Reform

For Immediate Release: 6/30/2011
Contact: Abel Habtegeorgis
Media Relations Manager
(510) 428-3939 x232

WASHINGTON, DC – Ella Baker Center for Human Rights applauds the United States Sentencing Commission’s decision today to apply the Fair Sentencing Act guidelines retroactively to those currently serving sentences for crack cocaine charges.

The commission was created by Congress to establish sentencing guidelines that would bring consistency and fairness to federal sentencing. The six-member U.S. Sentencing Commission decided that offenders locked up before the new law took effect should also benefit. Approximately 12,000 of the roughly 200,000 federal prisoners will be affected.

Under the Fair Sentencing Act passed last year, the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity, which falls disproportionately on African-Americans and people of color, was lowered from 100:1 to 18:1. However, those currently incarcerated for crack cocaine were unaffected and continue to serve their sentences under previous sentencing guidelines.

With the Fair Sentencing Act guidelines being applied retroactively, federal judges throughout the country will determine whether crack cocaine offenders are eligible for a reduction in their sentence.

“This historic decision will have a huge impact on over tens of thousands of people locked up and locked out of fairness in the justice system, a huge majority of whom are people of color,” commented Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “ Revisions to the unfair sentences under the old crack cocaine policies is a landmark victory for everyone including taxpayers. But their is no doubt that there are still egregious racial disparities that continue across the country with regards to our justice system.”