Thousands of Federal Crack Prisoners Set for Early Release
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Thousands of drug offenders convicted of possessing crack cocaine under federal law will receive early releases due to recent changes in mandatory sentencing laws that come closer to equalizing the penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
In 1986 Congress decided that anyone convicted of having as little as five grams of crack faced mandatory minimum jail time of five years, while people caught with powder cocaine had to be carrying 100 times as much of the drug to receive the same sentence. According to statistics from 2007, 82% of people convicted on crack possession charges were black, and 9% were white.
Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the guidelines, and in June the Supreme Court extended the change to prisoners who had entered into plea agreements for crack-related offenses.
More than 1,800 prisoners in U.S. penitentiaries became eligible for immediate release on Tuesday, with another 10,000 expected to benefit from reduced sentences over the next several years.
The average inmate impacted by the law change will get three years trimmed from their sentence, from ten years to seven.
The reductions will not apply to anyone found guilty of crack offenses under state laws.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
The First in a Wave of Inmates Are Released after 1980s-Era Penalties for Crack Are Eased (Associated Press)
Drug Terms Reduced, Freeing Prisoners (by John Schwartz, New York Times)
Federal Prisoners in for Crack Will Get Sentence Cuts (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Supreme Court Allows Plea Agreement Sentences to be Changed when Sentencing Rules are Updated (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Justice Department Moves to Equalize Cocaine Sentencing For All Races (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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