Thursday, November 3, 2011

We Haven't Forgotten

This new article from AFRO tells the story of FAMM members Karen, Lawrence, and Lamont Garrison and their long odyssey through the justice system's skewed approach to crack cocaine sentencing.  Both Lawrence and Lamont benefited from the 2007 retroactive crack guideline changes and were released before the most recent set of retroactive changes went into effect on November 1, 2011.

Impacted family member Karen Garrison said once the Fair Sentencing Act was passed it should have made sentences retroactive. "They did it for marijuana. Why can’t it be done in this case?"
Her sons, Lawrence Garrison and his twin brother, Lamont, were convicted on cocaine conspiracy that changed to cocaine base which gave them more time. Howard University graduates, the twins represented themselves pro se after the 2007 decision came down and successfully reduced their sentences.

Lawrence spent 11 years and eight months in prison. His sentence was reduced by 36 months with five years of supervised release. He works several jobs; a real estate agent, car salesman and health care coding specialist. “I came home in the middle of a recession. I was determined to make it. With the help of my friends from Howard, good things will continue to happen.”

On the other hand, Lamont, a political science major, served 13 years and five months. His sentence was reduced by 46 months. He is currently living in a halfway house waiting to be released. His family hopes things go well.
“Both of them wanted to be lawyers but not anymore. They’ve had enough of the judicial system,” said their mother. “African Americans always get the blunt end of the stick. D.C. didn’t do anything to assist impacted families.”
These honest sentiments reflect a difficult truth:  the crack reforms weren't perfect.  The changes to the crack mandatory minimum sentences haven't been made retroactive (see H.R. 2316 for a bill that would fix this).  The 18-to-one ratio still isn't an equalized, much fairer one-to-one ratio (see H.R. 2242 for a bill that would fix this).     And then there are all the other drug offenders -- and other types of offenders, too -- serving mandatory minimum sentences that are inherently unjust because a judge never got to decide on the right sentence for each individual defendant.

We haven't forgotten that these injustices are still out there, and that's why FAMM's doors are still open, and why we're still working.

You can help:  click here to write to your federal lawmakers and urge them to finish what they started and make all the Fair Sentencing Act's reforms retroactive today!