By Ezekiel Edwards and Emma Andersson. Edwards is the Director and Andersson is a staff attorney for the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project.
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) is actually only kind of fair. The passage of the 2010 law, which reduced the crack to powder mandatory minimum ratio in federal cocaine sentences from 100:1 to 18:1, was a significant step in the direction of fairness. While we applaud this change, we also look forward to the day when Congress adopts the actually fair ratio of 1:1. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari on two FSA cases, Hill v. United States and Dorsey v. United States, both out of the Seventh Circuit. In these cases, the Court will decide whether people whose offense predates the enactment of the FSA but who were sentenced afterwards should be sentenced based on the old 100:1 ratio or the new 18:1 ratio. If the Court rules the wrong way, a sizeable class of people will be excluded from Congress’ attempt to restore fairness and racial neutrality to federal cocaine sentencing, and the kind-of-Fair Sentencing Act will become even less fair.