Congress: Fix unjust sentencing between crack and powder cocaine cases

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When Congress voted to narrow the unjust disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine last summer, lawmakers didn't apply the change retroactively. That means that people who were sentenced in the past two decades under the old, misguided law are still behind bars.

As early as next month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission could vote on whether to do its part in righting this wrong. In the run-up to a June 1st hearing on the issue, they’ve asked for public input. Join us in telling the commissioners that people serving lengthy federal sentences for crack cocaine should not be in prison simply because deeply flawed laws put them there years ago.

Here's the letter we'll send to the U.S. Sentencing Commission:

Dear Commissioners,

I am writing to ask that you provide relief for the thousands of Americans who are currently in prison under the unjust and racially discriminatory drug sentencing laws that Congress overturned last summer. Please vote as soon as possible to make the new crack cocaine guideline retroactive.

Prior to Congress’ passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, the Sentencing Commission showed real leadership and consistently called for an end the 100:1 disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses. In 2007 — three years before Congress would make progress on this issue — members of your commission voted unanimously to lighten sentences for crack-related offenses and made the change retroactive. This move sent nearly 20,000 federal inmates home to be with their loved ones.

I am asking now that you continue to show leadership on this issue, which continues to disproportionately affect Black families and communities. In the past, members of your commission and reports you have issued noted that federal penalties for crack increased racial disparities in the prison population. You have cautioned that these racial disparities helped to create deep cynicism around the fairness of our nation’s criminal justice system. We still have significant work to do to address the issues that the commission has wisely identified. Please vote to retroactively apply the new crack cocaine guideline, and please reject any additional restrictions that would limit the reach of this courageous move.

Thank you,

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