This week, more than 12,000 people—85% of them Black—now serving time for crack cocaine offenses will have their sentences reviewed by a federal judge under terms of the Fair Sentencing Act, passed in August of last year. The reform bill reduced the 100-to-1 disparity between minimum sentences for crack and powder cocaine to 18-to-1. On Nov. 1, those already serving time became eligible for a hearing to consider reducing their sentences under the new changes.
Under the former system, five grams of crack resulted in five years of prison, while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to get the same time in prison. The ACLU's blog called the changes that took effect this week "a huge victory in reducing racial disparities and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system."
The US Sentencing Commission determined the new guidelines should apply retroactively. But rights activists say more needs to be done. "This is an incremental step in trying to address the disparity, but we think the only fair way to treat these two drugs is to treat them and punish them in the same manner," the ACLU's Jesselyn McCurdy told NPR. (Color Lines, Daily News, Nov. 2)
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