Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700
FAMM condemns DOJ for appealing First Step Act releases
DOJ continues to fight release of dozens of people serving lengthy crack-related sentences
WASHINGTON, D.C. – FAMM today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop trying to send people released under the First Step Act back to prison. The group noted that DOJ has opposed roughly 80 motions for early release under the retroactive crack cocaine sentencing reforms contained in the new law. Worse, the department continues to appeal decisions in cases where federal judges have already resentenced people to time served.
FAMM learned that DOJ on Monday had appealed the release of Keith Henderson, whose story highlighted the nationwide effort to change decades of harsh sentencing laws. Henderson was released from prison on July 16 after serving 14 years in federal prison.
“Fighting these releases is cruel and stupid,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “It’s cruel because people like Keith Henderson served more than enough time. He’s been home for less than a month, worked hard to secure a job, and was looking forward to bonding with his wife and four children. Now they all have to worry that he might be sent back to federal prison for another six years.
“The decision to appeal is stupid because DOJ is wrong on the law and likely to lose. Why is DOJ willing to waste so much taxpayer money on senseless appeals that, even if they were somehow able to win, would not increase public safety?” Ring said.
News of DOJ’s efforts were first reported by Reuters. Prosecutors argue that the sentences should be based on amount of drugs that were alleged to be involved during the investigation or trial, rather than the amount specified in the individual’s indictment and for which the individual was actually convicted.
The First Step Act was signed into law last December by President Trump after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. President Trump praised the bill during his 2019 State of the Union address. More than 1,100 people have received shorter sentences because of the crack sentencing reform included in the First Step Act.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.