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New Legislation Would Erase Crack-Powder Cocaine Disparity, Make FSA Retroactive, Reform Federal Gun Mandatory Minimums

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FAMM’s Stewart applauds proposals

Media contact: Mike Riggs, mriggs@famm.org

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a long-time champion of mandatory minimum sentencing reform, introduced three much-needed sentencing reform bills on Wednesday, earning applause from FAMM President and Founder Julie Stewart.
 
“The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was an important first step in restoring sanity to our sentencing laws for crack-cocaine, but there’s more that needs to be done. The next logical steps are to make the FSA retroactive, and to eradicate completely the disparity between powder and crack. The legislation introduced this week by Congressman Scott does exactly that.”
 
Scott also introduced legislation to fix mandatory minimum gun laws, and to increase the amount of time credits federal prisoners can earn for good behavior and rule adherence.
 
Here’s a brief rundown of what each bill does:
 
H.R. 1252, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act, would make the reduced penalties in 2010’s unanimously-passed Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, meaning that federal prisoners sentenced prior to 2010, when the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences was 100-to-1, would be permitted to apply for resentencing under the new 18-to-1 ratio.
 
– H.R. 1255, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, would eliminate entirely the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences, meaning the same amount of each drug would trigger the same sentence.
 
“The length of a person’s sentence shouldn’t depend on the date they were sentenced,” Stewart said. “Congress did something incredible when it passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, but we need it to finish the job.”
 
Congressman Scott also introduced two other pieces of legislation that would have a huge impact on federal sentencing and the Bureau of Prisons:
 
– H.R. 1254, The Recidivism Clarification Act of 2015, fixes the mandatory minimum sentences in 18 U.S.C. § 924, which currently requires the “stacking” of mandatory minimum sentences in which a gun is possessed in a drug trafficking offense. Under the law as it stands, defendants like Weldon Angelos are given consecutive mandatory minimums for each time they sell drugs while in possession of a gun. In Weldon’s case, he was allegedly in possession of a gun during three separate sales of marijuana. He sold only several hundred dollars worth of marijuana in total, and was never accused of brandishing or firing the gun, yet he received a 5-year mandatory minimum for the first time he sold allegedly with a gun, and consecutive 25-year mandatory minimums for each additional sale in which he was said to be in possession of the weapon. His 55-year sentence has been widely criticized for being longer than the sentences people receive for violent and terrorism offenses.
 
– H.R. 1253, the Prisoner Incentive Act of 2015, clarifies Congress’s intent to allow federal prisoners to earn up to 54 days each year off their sentences. Currently, BOP implementation of current good-time law allows prisoners to earn only 47 days a year off their sentences. This minor improvement fixes a technical error in existing law and would save more than $40 million.
 
“We’re also thrilled to see Congressman Scott address the disastrous ramifications of the924(c) statute, under which offenders who are charged with possessing a gun, despite having never brandished or fired the weapon, receive garishly long sentences,” Stewart added. “Men and women like Weldon Angelos, who received a 55-year sentence for selling marijuana while in possession of a firearm, have been punished in ways that are simply un-American. No matter where you stand on gun control, it’s time to fix what was clearly an ambiguously written law that’s had disastrous unintended consequences.”