The US Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. This move will allow over 12,000 prisoners to be released who were sentenced under harsh crack cocaine laws, prisoners that got sentences 100 times worse than someone who was convicted with powder cocaine. This led to a huge disparity between whites and blacks, since the majority of African-Americans were caught with crack cocaine, and white drug users tend to use powder cocaine.
Judge Patti B. Saris noted, "In passing the Fair Sentencing Act, Congress recognized the fundamental unfairness of federal cocaine sentencing policy and ameliorated it through bipartisan legislation. Today’s action by the Commission ensures that the longstanding injustice recognized by Congress is remedied, and that federal crack cocaine offenders who meet certain criteria established by the Commission and considered by the courts may have their sentences reduced to a level consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.”
Congress has the final say, but it is unlikely to intervene and the decision by the commission will stand, and prisoners sentenced under crack cocaine offenses can start petitioning judges for a revised sentence in November. Reductions will not be automatic though, a judge will rule on each case, with both the defender and the prosecutor weighing in.
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