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Sentencing: Federal Crack Sentence Reductions Begin to Take Hold

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #534)
Politics & Advocacy

More than 3,000 federal inmates serving lengthy sentences on crack cocaine charges have won reductions in their sentences since changes in sentencing guidelines approved by the US Sentencing Commission in December took effect at the beginning of March. Some 1,600 inmates are eligible for immediate release, but it was not clear how many had already walked out of prison, the Commission said in a report dated April 21.

The change in sentencing is designed to address what the Commission described as racial disparities in federal sentencing because of more severe penalties for crack cocaine offenses than for powder cocaine offenses. Four out of five federal crack offenders are black, but most powder cocaine offenders are white. The racial breakdown of released prisoners would appear to back the Commission's contention that crack sentences had disproportionately affected blacks: African-American inmates accounted for 84% of those granted sentence reductions.

Attorney General Mukasey and other drug war hardliners had sought to block the early releases, arguing that they would result in a mass release of violent criminals who would wreak havoc on American cities. Mukasey's Justice Department asked Congress to limit the early releases to first-time nonviolent offenders, but Congress did not act on that request. Commission statistics showed that only 9% of prisoners granted sentence cuts were violent or repeat offenders, while 30% were minor or first-time offenders.

The new sentencing guidelines will allow some 20,000 federal crack offenders to seek reductions. So far, slightly more than 3,600 have requested reductions, with more than 80% winning sentence cuts.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

I'm surprised this didn't cause a big wave of publicity...but maybe it's better this way, because we don't want to wake up more dogs of war. Let's hope this dribble of common sense takes hold, more unlucky people are released, to pick up the pieces of their lives and relocate their dreams and see them out.
Jail is no place for us; if you doubt that, peruse your local paper or listen to your radio stations, and don't forget the gossip. You will hear the stories about Justice and Law Enforcement workers who break all the rules and regs about the movement of drugs and wonder how they get awaay with it awt all.
But they do, and I hear it is really hard on them in jail. So there is a reason behind this move....

Fri, 01/16/2009 - 12:44am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This is on behalf of my husband, I would like to know on federal charge how much time will my Husband get on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base crack

Thu, 05/28/2009 - 4:35pm Permalink

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