Saturday, 9 July 2011

Drug Offenders in Federal Prisons May Be Eligible for Release after Sentencing Decision

Thousands of crack offenders currently lodged in federal prisons may soon be released after a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply a new law retroactively.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to retroactively apply the law that would reduce penalties for possession of crack cocaine. The decision by the panel which came after a 6-0 vote, would affect more than 12,000 prison inmates in the country. That makes it approximately one out of every 17 inmates in federal prisons in the United States.

Last year, Congress approved reduced sentences for crack cocaine offenses, by changing an earlier law. That law had been criticized because it allowed for stronger punishments for crack offenses, which are common in poor and predominantly black neighborhoods.

However, the question about whether the new change in the law would apply retroactively to people already locked up for crack offenses, was left unresolved. This week, the U.S. Sentencing Commission handed down its decision. The controversy over the decision has already begun. Some lawmakers are opposed to the decision to apply the law retroactively to people already in federal prison for these offenses.

Earlier, a person convicted of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine, could face a sentence of five years, while possession of 50 grams of cocaine would result in a prison sentence of at least 10 years. However, over the years, San Diego criminal defense attorneys have found that these laws have been used exclusively to target members of the black community. Most people currently lodged in federal prisons after being convicted for crack cocaine offenses are African-American.

No comments:

Post a Comment