In what is hailed as another victory to reduce the disparity brought about under the old “crack cocaine law,” the Supreme Court ruled that those who were sentenced after the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) was passed are eligible to seek relief for a sentence reduction.
Before the FSA went into effect, there was a 100:1 ratio between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine when deciding a sentence. Individuals and organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums fought to get that ratio changed. Proponents for the change cited the disparity in sentencing under the crack cocaine versus powder cocaine law. African-Americans were particularly hit hard. After much lobbying, Congress lowered the ratio to 18:1 and the Fair Sentencing Act was signed into law on August 3, 2010.
Unfortunately, those who committed a crime involving crack cocaine before that date, but were not already sentenced, got caught in what is known as the crack pipeline. “Pipeline Prisoners” were not eligible to receive a reduced sentence under the new, lower ratio. Facing mandatory 10 year sentences for selling crack, Corey Hill and Edward Dorsey who were arrested in 2007 and 2008, respectively, filed lawsuits arguing that those convicted but not sentenced after the FSA became law, should benefit from the more lenient sentences that the FSA allows to be imposed.
Justice Stephen Beyer announced on June 21 that by a 5 - 4 decision, the Court agreed that individuals who were who were sentenced after August 3, 2010 under the old crack cocaine guidelines will be entitled to ask the court for relief. Along with Justice Beyer, Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan were in agreement with Hill and Dorsey. Together with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
After the decision, FAMM president, Julie Stewart issued a statement proclaiming, “We don't know exactly how that will take place but those details will be forthcoming. In the meantime, celebrate this victory and if you know a "pipeline prisoner," encourage that person to contact their attorney.”