Make lower crack sentencing guidelines retroactive!!!

What’s up fam, 

As you prepare to wrap up the year, I want to alert everyone to a very important event regarding drug sentencing. On December 11, the U.S. Sentencing Commission plans to hold a public meeting where they are expected to vote on whether to make the new, lower crack cocaine guideline retroactive.

On May 1, 2007, the U.S. Sentencing Commission proposed an amendment to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to reduce the sentencing ranges for crack cocaine offenses by two levels. The amendment went into effect on November 1, 2007, and will affect 70 percent of crack cocaine cases sentenced in federal courts, reducing sentences by an average of 15 months. 

Retroactivity is vital because for nearly twenty years now, no group has been hit harder with mandatory minimums than Black folks. But don’t take my word for it.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory penalties for crack cocaine offenses that have been characterized as the harshest in history. The law established drastically different penalty structures for crack and powder cocaine offenses, based on the understanding that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and posed a greater threat to public safety. This is what has come to be known as the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity. The law’s effect on the disproportionate number of African Americans in United States prisons is staggering. While drug use rates are similar among all racial groups, African American drug offenders have a twenty percent greater likelihood of receiving a prison sentence than their white counterparts and African Americans now serve virtually as much time in prison for drug offenses as whites serve for violent offenses. (emphasis mine)

 Families Against Mandatory Minimums informs us that

“African Americans account for 13 percent of the general population, yet in 2003 they comprised 27 percent of those receiving federal mandatory drug sentences. Hispanics constituted 12.5 percent of the general population but received 43 percent of the drug mandatory sentences…Women are the fastest-growing sector of the prison population. Nearly 66 percent of the federal female prisoners are serving drug sentences. Taking a message for a boyfriend involved in a drug deal or driving him to the bank can lead to “conspiracy” charges, and the woman can be held liable for the entire amount of drugs sold.”

I am sure some of you reading this post have someone in your family who has or is serving time in prison due to drug-related crimes. The same way families are pressured to not talk about Uncle Ray, this is our opportunity to end the silence, restore our families, and demand justice. Our collective quest for freedom (which is often very amorphous) will be a distant dream until fairness is institutionalized.

So for all of my people holding it down in around D.C., I implore you to make it out to this hearing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 3:30 PM
Mecham Conference Center
Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building
One Columbus Circle, N.E., Washington, D.C. 

If you want to get involved but don’t live in the D.C. area, please visit Families Against Mandatory Minimums at

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


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