FAMM Hails New Beginning for Thousands Unjustly Sentenced

For Immediate Release

FAMM Hails New Beginning for Thousands Unjustly Sentenced

Sentencing Reformers Mark First Day of Crack Reform Retroactivity

WASHINGTON - Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) president Julie Stewart today celebrated the release of the first round of federal prisoners to benefit from the retroactive application of recently reduced crack cocaine sentences.

In August 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced from 100:1 to 18:1 the disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences.  Congress directed the Sentencing Commission to follow suit and it reduced the sentencing guideline for crack offenses in accordance with the new law. The Commission then voted in June 2011 to make the reduced penalties for crack offenses retroactive.  Those already serving prison sentences under the old guideline are now eligible to seek sentence reductions in court. An estimated 12,040 current prisoners will be eligible to request reduced sentences.

“Beginning today, thousands of individuals across the country will get another shot at justice,” said Ms. Stewart. "These people were forced to serve excessive sentences under a scheme Congress has admitted was fundamentally flawed, but, today, they can ask for long overdue relief."

FAMM is in touch with several prisoners who expect to be released on November 1 or shortly thereafter. Please contact us if you want to highlight specific cases or talk to family members of offenders who expect to be released.

Sentence reductions are generally requested by submitting a motion to the court that sentenced the prisoner, usually by an attorney. The court, which must consider whether the public safety will be affected by early release, can give all, part, or none of the requested sentence reduction. There is no guarantee that any prisoner will receive a sentence reduction, even if eligible for one. A fact sheet containing frequently asked questions (and answers) about the crack retroactivity can be found here:

Not all prisoners will benefit from the new crack sentences, especially prisoners subject to mandatory minimum sentences. Only Congress can make the FSA’s changes to the crack mandatory minimum sentences retroactive. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House has introduced a bill, H.R. 2316, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act, to do just that. If it becomes law, H.R. 2316 would make the FSA’s changes to mandatory minimums apply retroactively to federal crack offenders who did not benefit from the August 3, 2010 passage of the Fair Sentencing Act.

FAMM has for many years been actively engaged in the fight for reforming the crack disparity and for making those reforms retroactive. Most recently, Ms. Stewart testified in favor of retroactivity at a U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing on June 1, 2011. A copy of her testimony as well as a copy of FAMM’s written comments on the retroactivity proposal can be found here. http://www.famm.org/FederalSentencing/USSentencingGuidelines/USSentencingGuidelinesUpdates/FederalSentencingGuidelines2011.aspx


FAMM is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information on FAMM, visit www.famm.org or contact media@famm.org.

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