Sentencing Commission Urged To Apply Guidelines Retroactively
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In testimony before the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) president and founder Julie Stewart will urge commissioners to apply the recently reduced penalties for crack offenses to individuals already serving time in prison.
Last August, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, a longtime FAMM priority that reduced the 100:1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences.
The Sentencing Commission then reduced its sentencing guideline for crack offenses in accordance with the new law. The Commission today is holding a hearing to solicit comments on a proposal to apply the new lower guideline retroactively.
“Thousands of Americans are serving sentences that the Commission has criticized for many years as excessive,” Stewart will tell the Commission. “It would be cruel to change policy because of the injustice they suffered only to deny them relief. And as for their families, I simply do not know how we tell a young child that she must live without her father for an extra five or ten years simply because he broke the law before Congress realized the law itself was broken.”
Ms. Stewart will be joined at the witness table by FAMM member Natasha Darrington. She was released from federal prison in 2008 after the Sentencing Commission voted to apply an earlier crack penalty reducing amendment retroactively in 2007.
Ms. Darrington, who would still be in prison today but for retroactivity, will testify movingly about the day in prison she learned about the Commission’s vote and how grateful she feels to be free and once again part of her four children’s lives.
Ms. Stewart will also be joined at the hearing by dozens of FAMM members from across the country, many of whom have loved ones still serving time in prison. At the beginning of her testimony, Ms. Stewart will ask the members to stand and show the Commissioners pictures of their incarcerated loved ones. “These individuals, by their presence alone, can testify more powerfully than I as to why the Commission must apply the new crack amendment retroactively,” Ms. Stewart will say.
FAMM also helped organize a letter writing campaign which produced over 60,000 letters urging the Commission to support retroactivity.