Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Reform: The Battle Continues

Will Congress ever make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive?

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Yesterday the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to apply retroactively sentencing reform for crack-cocaine convictions that Congress passed last year, giving more than 12,000 inmates -- 85 percent of whom are black -- the opportunity to go before a judge and seek a reduction in their sentences.

But ColorLines reports that this doesn't mean all eligible people will be freed. Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union explained, "Not every crack-cocaine offender will have his sentence reduced." Why? While more than 12,000 people -- 96 percent of whom are black and Latino -- are now able to go before a judge to seek a reduction, judges will decide whether to reduce sentences on a case-by-case basis by weighing behavior in prison, the nature of the offense and whether a weapon was involved.

What we really need, Murphy says, is statutory retroactivity. That would take Congress voting to make the entire Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, which would be one step in the direction of what she calls "breaking the addiction this country has to incarceration."

Read more at ColorLines.

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