Thursday, January 9, 2014

'Fair Sentencing Act' not all that fair

Photo courtesy of Pete Souza/The White House
In Aug. 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. While its name is misleading, it does help begin to reduce the disparities created out of the “War on Drugs.”

The law was set to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine cases created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Before the Fair Sentencing Act, federal penalties for possessing an amount of crack 100 times smaller than the amount of cocaine would lead to the same penalty as one would receive for powder cocaine.

The Fair Sentencing Act lowered the crack-to-cocaine ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. While the Act still leaves some disparity, many defendants caught with smaller amounts of crack are no longer subject to mandatory 5 or 10-year prison sentences. Essentially, the Act raised the amount of crack necessary to impose the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence from 50 grams to 280 grams and the five-year mandatory minimum from 5 grams to 28.

Since 2010, though, the Act has faced legal hurdles in its application. Congress decides the question as to whether a law can be imposed retroactively. In this instance, Congress decided nothing.

Read the rest of the story at The Eastern Echo.