Holder Urges Retroactivity of Fair Sentencing Act

Testifying before the U.S. Sentencing Commission this morning, Attorney General Eric Holder urged retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the sentencing disparity for crimes related to crack, versus powder, cocaine:

[I]n considering retroactive application of this amendment, protecting the American people is – and will remain – the Administration’s top priority. President Obama and I, along with leaders across the Administration, understand how illegal drugs – including crack – ravage communities. Crack offenders – especially violent ones – should be punished. And the Justice Department will make every effort to prosecute them. However, as years of experience and study have shown, there is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders – a position that Congress overwhelmingly supported with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act.

For those convicted of crack-related crimes before the Fair Sentencing Act, the recommended sentence was 100 times what the sentence would have been if the crack were powder cocaine instead. The Act reduced that disparity to 20-to-1 -- a move that improves, but does not irradicate, a disparity with severely racist implications. Holder's testimony favoring application of the Act to those sentenced under the old rules is a step in the right direction for an otherwise disappointing tenure as attorney general.