Today the Constitution Project urged the United States Sentencing Commission to make its amendment to the sentencing guidelines for those convicted of crack cocaine possession retroactive. The amendment, which went into effect on November 1, 2007, reduced the suggested sentence for simple possession by an average of 27 months and currently applies only to future convictions.
“Today the Sentencing Commissions held a day-long public hearing on the retroactivity issue at the Georgetown University Law Center. The Commission’s amendment of the sentencing guidelines was an important step towards the fair administration of justice,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “To deny those already sentenced under unjust guidelines equal treatment under the law would represent a significant failure of the federal criminal justice system. The Commission should make its amendment retroactive, and Congress should immediately hold hearings on underlying sentencing disparities.”
The Constitution Project’s bipartisan Sentencing Committee, co-chaired by Edwin Meese III, Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation and Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan, and Phillip Heymann, professor of law at Harvard Law School and Deputy Attorney General under President Bill Clinton, addressed the sentencing disparity in its report, “Recommendations for Federal Criminal Sentencing in a Post-Booker World.” The Committee called the 100:1 powder/crack cocaine weight disparity on which the sentencing guidelines are based “unjustifiable as a matter of policy,” and urged the Sentencing Commission to alter the guidelines in a way that would “ameliorate the harmful effects of this rule.”