Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Understanding Crack Retroactivity

FAMM has been deeply involved with recent reforms to federal crack cocaine sentencing laws.  Last year, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) reduced the amounts of crack it takes to earn 5 and 10-year mandatory minimum sentences.  Alas, those reforms don't benefit people who are already in prison (they aren't "retroactive").  The FSA instructed the U.S. Sentencing Commission to rewrite the crack sentencing guidelines, which it has done.  The new guidelines are primed to go into effect on November 1, 2011.

The big question everyone is asking -- including the Commission -- is whether those guideline changes should be made retroactive, so that everyone (in and out of prison) can get fairer, more rational crack sentences.

On June 1, the Commission is having a hearing in Washington, DC to hear from experts (including FAMM) on whether the guideline changes should be made retroactive.  (We're saying yes, of course.)  The Commission is also accepting the public's opinions on the matter, until June 2.

How can you help?  Write to the Commission and urge them to support retroactivity (here's our sample letter to help).  Or sign FAMM's petition to support retroactivity.  If you want to attend the hearing in person, contact apage@famm.org (sorry, you won't be allowed to speak, but you can and should bring a photo of an incarcerated loved one to help put a human face on the issue).

If you want to catch up on what's happening on crack retroactivity, read our answers to frequently asked questions about Making Federal Crack Reforms Retroactive.  You'll be glad you did.