Yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission held its hearing on whether and how to make the new crack guideline retroactive. It was a jam-packed and exciting day. Here is my quick recap:
Dozens of FAMM members attended the hearing, traveling from as far away as Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina. FAMM's president, Julie Stewart, told the commissioners, that the mere presence of so many family members was more powerful than anything the witnesses could possibly say.
But happily, witness after witness called for retroactivity, starting with the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder. While he also called for restrictions on who might benefit, we hope that the Commission will listen to the many, many others who testified that retroactivity should be available for everyone, not just some. Judging from the tough questions Commissioners asked the Department of Justice witness who testified with the Attorney General, we are cautiously optimistic that they will listen more to the Department's support for retroactivity and less to the Department's call for restrictions on who should be eligible for retroactivity.
You can read Julie's written statement here and to FAMM member Natasha Darrington's excellent testimony here. Natasha did an amazing job delivering her testimony, bringing some of the commissioners and audience to tears. And when Julie asked the FAMM members with loved ones in prison to stand and be recognized, it was clear the commissioners were visibly moved. FAMM plays a powerful role in reminding policy makers who their policies impact. (Expect an email from us soon with video and pictures from the hearing.)
Media coverage of the hearing was limited but excellent. The New York Times interviewed Julie in a piece that appears here. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Julie and Natasha for a segment that aired this morning on Morning Edition found here. Natasha appeared on another NPR show, Tell Me More, found here. FAMM was also quoted in an Associated Press print story and radio clip in advance of the hearing.
Finally, I want you to know that even those of you who couldn't attend the hearing had an impact. The Commission mentioned that it had received over 34,000 letters in support of retroactivity. THANK YOU for taking the time to make your voices heard by sending in letters and signing our petition!
So, what's next? The Commission will hold a vote on retroactivity sometime this summer. We will be back in touch to let you know what we're doing to make sure the vote comes out right.
It was an exciting day and your support helped make it so. Thank you so much!
Jennifer Seltzer Stitt
Federal Legislative Affairs Director