Monday, August 1, 2011

It is -- and isn't -- about numbers

This article from Philadelphia's Daily News does a nice job of showing the potential real impact of recent sentencing reform victories like the retroactive crack sentencing guideline amendment and the DOJ's reversal of its policy on applying the Fair Sentencing Act to pipeline cases:

The [U.S. Sentencing Commission] estimates that 18 crack offenders sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia would be eligible for immediate release when the amendment goes into effect on Nov. 1, and that 15 others could be released by Nov. 1, 2012. An estimated 153 federal crack-offense inmates might be eligible for reduced sentences.
The commission's vote was in response to a law signed by President Obama last Aug. 3 that established lower penalties for crack offenses and eliminated a mandatory five-year prison term for simple possession of crack.
The new amendment does not give retroactive effect to the law.
However, Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors on July 15 to ask courts to apply the law's lower penalties to people whose crimes were committed before Aug. 3 but who have not yet been sentenced.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen estimated that 20 crack offenders sentenced here could be affected by Holder's memo.
And that's just Philadelphia.

Sentencing reform is -- and isn't -- about the numbers to FAMM.  Of course, we want everyone to get just sentences and to benefit from reforms.  But whenever we hear a number -- be it large or small -- we remember that the figure represents a human being, a person with a family, a father or mother, a child or aunt or uncle, a spouse or a grandparent.  That's why we're still fighting for justice:  because it's not just about numbers, it's about real people and real families.