The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a 2018 law meant to reduce some inmates’ prison sentences does not apply to low-level crack cocaine offenders.
The case was brought by Tarahrick Terry, a Florida man who was sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison for possessing 3.9 grams of crack cocaine. According to NBC News, the amount in Terry’s possession weighed about as much as four paperclips. His sentence under the 100 to one law passed in the ‘80s is the same as someone who possessed almost a pound of powder cocaine.
Terry asked the court to reduce his sentence under the First Step Act, a bipartisan law passed under the Trump administration that allows prisoners convicted of older crack crimes to seek reduced sentences. However, according to ABC News, the law only applies to offenders convicted of possessing more than five grams in one category of possession and more than 50 grams in another category.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed with the court’s decision, but she wrote a separate opinion calling on Congress to fix the disparity.
“There is no apparent reason that career offenders should be left to serve out sentences that were unduly influenced by the 100-to-1 ratio,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the text will not bear that reading. Fortunately, Congress has numerous tools to right this injustice.”
Monday’s ruling is estimated to affect no more than a couple of hundred inmates since most low-level crack offenders convicted so long ago have finished out their sentences.
Fortunately, Terry is scheduled to finish his sentence in September. However, he is currently serving the remainder of his sentence on home confinement.