Friday, June 10, 2011

Washington Post Calls for Retroactivity Without Limits

Attorney General Eric Holder recently supported making recent crack guideline changes retroactive -- but not for people with longer criminal records and a gun involved in their cases.  Almost no one else supported those limitations at the U.S. Sentencing Commission's hearing on June 1, including FAMM.

Today, The Washington Post agreed with us.

Today's editorial calls Holder's proposed limitations a "step back" in the 20-year effort to make crack sentences fairer and at least somewhat more rational.

The most important reason to set aside the Justice Department’s approach is fairness. The old crack laws were draconian — and that is true whether they were applied to a first-time offender or to someone who also was found to be in possession of a weapon.
Concerns over public safety can be — and have been — addressed through other means. The most serious criminals and those deemed violent “career” offenders are not among the 13,000 or so inmates eligible for a potential sentence reduction. Moreover, no sentence could be reduced until a judge evaluates an inmate’s record and signs off on the reduction. The judge would have the authority to reduce only the penalties associated with the crack violations; penalties for other offenses, including gun infractions, would remain intact.
Federal judges have a good record in making such judgment calls. Judges rejected some 36 percent of requests for reduced sentences after the commission tweaked the crack guidelines in 2007 and permitted retroactive reductions. The commission recently documented that those who were released after their sentences were shortened recorded recidivism rates that were slightly lower than typical. Those with longer records or gun convictions were not automatically excluded from consideration, and they shouldn’t be this time around, either.