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November 12, 2007

USSC hearing testimony on crack amendment retroactivity

Over at its website, the US Sentencing Commission now has lots of the witnesses' written testimony linked to this planned agenda for the all-day public hearing tomorrow at Georgetown University Law Center concerning whether the USSC's new crack guidelines should be applied retroactively to previously sentenced defendants.  I do not see anything too surprising in the testimony now linked there, though I still expect the hearing will be quite eventful (especially with FAMM encouraging its members to attend).   

I hope attendees will take good notes and perhaps send me reports for posting.  I am especially interested to hear if the Commissioners indicate when they expect to make their decision on retroactivity.   As this article in the Los Angeles Times highlighted this morning, this crack retroactivity decision may be the single most consequential decision to be made by the USSC since the initial guidelines were first promulgated 20 years ago.   (This archive of my crack coverage provides plenty to review in anticiaption for Tuesday's hearing.)

UPDATE:  The Washington Post has this front-page article in its Tuesday edition entitled "Sentences For Crack Offenses Studied; Thousands Could Be Released Soon."  The piece highlights the racial dimensions of the retroactivity issue: "Nearly 86 percent of inmates who would be affected by the change are black; slightly fewer than 6 percent are white.  Ninety-four percent are men."

Also, the Post has this strong op-ed by former Judge Paul Cassell entitled "Repairing a Crack in the System."  He responds to some of the Justice Department's advocacy against retroactivity:

[T]he Justice Department "strongly opposes" such a move. In a letter to the commission, the department expressed concern about the "sweeping impact" retroactive application would have.  This curious, misery-loves-company argument seemingly suggests that the commission should correct small injustices, but not significant ones.

The department also argues that re-sentencing offenders would "impose enormous and unjustified costs" on the federal court system.  But even the department's possibly exaggerated estimate, in the millions of dollars, would be dwarfed by the more than $1 billion that could be saved by releasing prisoners early from expensive prison cells.

November 12, 2007 at 08:52 PM | Permalink


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yes i am interested in knowing more regarding
if this law will apply to those inmated that
already have been convicted.
PLese email me whatever information is out

Posted by: careim williams | May 15, 2008 9:08:11 AM

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