Crack Cocaine Sentence Reductions – Retroactivity
It is fairly common knowledge at this point that the United States Sentencing Commission has made their Sentencing Guideline Manual reductions for crack cocaine sentences retroactive. However, this policy has raised quite a few questions regarding how it works and who it helps. This article is meant to clear up many of the questions that visitors to this site, and families of incarcerated loved-ones in general, have regarding the new policy.
In 2010 Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which raised the triggering quantities of mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses. The Sentencing Commission then lowered the sentence ranges for all such charges. On June 30, 2011, the Sentencing Commission made their reductions retroactive to all inmates in the federal Bureau of Prisons.
This is a good thing. Many inmates will qualify for reductions in their sentences because those sentences were “Unfair”. The new policy, however, doesn’t have the effect of a new Congressional law that would make FSA 2010 retroactive.
What’s the difference?
Policy can only change the guideline range, so those who were sentenced to mandatory minimums under the old law cannot get a sentence reduction (with one exception). The only way these inmates can get relief is if Congress specifically makes FSA 2010 retroactive.
So, will Congress make the new crack cocaine law retroactive? Currently there seems to be no movement on the side of Congress on FSA 2010 at all. It has the opportunity to block the Sentencing Commission’s policy with a blocking Bill before the enactment date of November 1, 2011. However, so far nothing has been presented.
It (Congress), can also pass a new law making all these changes retroactive to every inmate sentenced for applicable crack cocaine crimes. Again, there is no movement on this front either. The good folks at FAMM even made a page with lots of great information and up-to-date news on these guidelines changes.