News and Announcements

19,500 people to benefit from crack cocaine guideline amendment if made retroactive

Crack cocaine guideline amendment would improve sentences for 19,500 people if made retroactive. 

Yesterday the U.S. Sentencing Commission released its report on the estimated impact of the retroactive application of the so-called "crack minus two" guideline amendment it sent to Congress last May.  The figures are significant and provide new hope that nearly 20,000 prisoners serving sentences for crack cocaine offenses could see their sentences reduced by an average of more than two years.

Among the findings:
• Number of crack prisoners eligible to benefit from the amendment: 19,500
•  Average sentence reductions of all eligible prisoners: 27 months
• 4,776 prisoners would receive reductions of 12 months or less
• 5,829 prisoners would receive reductions of between 13 and 24  months
•3,112 prisoners would receive reductions of between 25 and 36 months
•1,644 prisoners would receive reductions of between 37 and 48 months
•1,315 prisoners would receive sentence reductions of 49 months or more
• Increase in number of prisoners released due to the retroactive application in the first year by retroactivity:   2,520

The crack cocaine amendment is not yet retroactive.  The Sentencing Commission will vote sometime this fall on whether to make the amendment retroactive.

Quick review of 2007 crack amendment
On May 1, 2007, the Sentencing Commission sent to Congress a guideline amendment that proposed to reduce crack cocaine sentences by lowering base offense levels for all crack cocaine convictions by two levels.   For instance, drug quantities that formerly triggered a level 34 guideline range (151-188 months), would instead trigger a level 32 guideline range (121-151 months).  Congress has six months to reject the amendment and if it takes no action the amendment will automatically become effective on November 1, 2007.  We anticipate that the amendment will become effective this November without opposition.    FAMM led an effort to support the crack cocaine guideline change when it was proposed in April 2007.  We understood that it represented the first in what we hope will be a number of steps to lower crack sentences and the first real relief for crack defendants since the Commission’s failed attempt in 1995 to treat crack the same as powder cocaine.  As proposed, the crack guideline would apply only to people sentenced after it becomes effective on November 1.  And so, since May, FAMM has waged a vigorous campaign to persuade the Sentencing Commission to make the new crack guideline retroactive so it could benefit eligible crack prisoners.  Fairness dictates the changes apply to prisoners serving the unjust crack cocaine sentences that prompted the Commission to act. The Commission has already heard from thousands of individuals, asking that the amendment be made retroactive. If you have not told the Commission how you feel, it is not too late to ensure your views are heard. The Commission is seeking public comment until November 1. Visit the  Take Action page on the FAMM website to insure that all crack defendants benefit from this promising first step toward sentencing fairness.

What is FAMM?
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is the national voice for fair and proportionate sentencing laws. We shine a light on the human face of sentencing, advocate for state and federal sentencing reform, and mobilize thousands of individuals and families whose lives are adversely affected by unjust sentences. To join FAMM, please visit our website.  If you are a member of the media and wish to speak to a FAMM representative about these changes, or to arrange an interview with people affected by mandatory sentencing laws, please email [email protected].