Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA), John Conyers (D-MI), and 20 other Members of Congress signed and sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to create a special board to consider clemency requests from federal prisoners still serving crack cocaine sentences based on the now-discredited 100-to-1 ratio. As you'll remember, that unsupportable ratio between crack and powder cocaine sentences was changed to 18-to-1 with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010.
From Rep. Scott's website:
The FSA was signed into law by President Obama on August 3, 2010. It reduced the infamous sentencing ratio between crack cocaine and powder cocaine from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1. Congressmen Scott and Conyers, along with other signatories to the letter, had worked for more than 17 years to eliminate this clearly unwarranted sentencing disparity and were instrumental in the 18 to 1 compromise enacted in the FSA. In forwarding the letter to the President, Congressmen Scott and Conyers stated the following:
"Scientific studies and experiences over time revealed that there are no significant differences between cocaine in the crack form, which is generally smoked, and the powder form, which is generally inhaled. Yet, prior to enactment of the FSA, the mandatory minimum penalty for 5 grams of crack was 5 years whereas 500 grams of powder cocaine were required for a 5 year sentence. While we worked for, and continue to work for, elimination in its entirety of the sentencing disparity between crack and powder, the reduction from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1 is a good step toward that goal. With the strong national consensus, including within the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary branches of the federal government, that the 100 to 1 sentencing ratio is unfair to crack defendants, it is unconscionable that we still have people serving mandatory sentences under the 100 to 1 ratio. Therefore, we are calling upon President Obama to exercise his constitutional clemency authority to right this wrong by setting up a process for according those whose sentence length is based on a mandatory sentence for a crack violation, a reduction equivalent to an application of the FSA 18 to 1 reduction.
"This is the fair action for the President, whose strong support of the FSA greatly assisted its passage in the Congress. In the past, systemic clemency has been used to address injustices for which there was a similarly strong national consensus. For instance, President Gerald Ford established a commission to make recommendations to him on clemency for those imprisoned or subject to imprisonment for draft dodging during the Vietnam War era. Without the President's intervention through his clemency authority, men and women will continue to be held accountable to unfair sentences, some involving life imprisonment for non-violent crimes that resulted from romantic or familial relationships with other offenders, such as the so-called 'girlfriend problem' where the defendant was a bit player in the boyfriend's drug offense. It is appropriate and necessary for the President to close this gap in fairness in the application of our drug laws."FAMM applauds Representatives Scott and Conyers and the other Members who signed this important call to eliminate the last vestiges of one of the most unfair, racially discriminatory sentencing policies in American history. A clemency board would be a fair, impartial, and effective way to correct the remaining injustices of the 100-to-1 ratio, while also preserving public safety. We hope the President responds with action.