Jul 11, 2011

12,000 Prisoners To Be Granted a Reduction in Sentences for Crack Related Offenses?

Thousands of federal prisoners may benefit from the proposal under consideration by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to correct large disparities in sentences between those convicted of crack and power cocaine offenses. Although the Fair Sentencing Act, passed nearly one year ago, sought to ameliorate such disparities, the act did not determine if the reduction in sentencing would apply retroactively.

Prior to the FSA, crack related offenses had been been punished one hundred times more severely than those involving powder cocaine and have largely targeted African Americans, who represent 82% of those prosecuted federally for crack offenses. (For example, a conviction for the sale of five hundred grams of powder cocaine triggers a five-year mandatory sentence,whie only five grams of crack triggered the same sentence). The FSA reduced that disparity to eighteen to one.

A recent LA Times article, Attorney General Eric Holder, who supports the proposal stated, "There is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders."  No meaningful pharmacological differences between the two drugs have been found.

Over 12,000 federal prisoners could be affected.