Testimony Encouraging Retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010

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May 25, 2011
Jasmine L. Tyler, Deputy Director, National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

On June 1, 2011, the U.S. Sentencing Commission held a public hearing on the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which Congress passed in 2010 and narrowed a decades-old disparity in federal sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. If the Commission decides to apply the sentencing guideline changes retroactive, as many as 12,000 people in federal prison could be released early, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Passage of the Fair Sentencing Act was an acknowledgement by Congress of the racial disparities that grew out of the old law. A decision to not apply the law retroactively, therefore, would perpetuate an openly unequal practice. Ms. Tyler went on to say in her testimony, "Imagine that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had upheld segregation in existing schools and only mandated integration for new schools being built, or that discrimination was only prohibited in new bathrooms or water fountains, while maintaining separate but equal standards in all those already in operation. Once these racist injustices are identified they must be eradicated in all their forms and the Fair Sentencing Act is no different."

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