Mark ShermanThe Associated Press (Read entire article)December 12, 2007
The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow some 19,500 federal prison inmates, most of them black, to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences.
The commission, which sets guidelines for federal prison sentences, decided to make retroactive its recent easing of recommended sentences for crack offenses.
Most of those eligible could receive no more than a two-year cut in their prison terms, but roughly 3,800 inmates could be released from prison within a year after the March 3 effective date of Tuesday’s decision. Federal judges will have the final say whether to reduce sentences.***U.S. District Judge William Sessions of Vermont, a commission member, said the vote on retroactivity will have the “most dramatic impact on African-American families.” A failure to act “may be taken by some as particularly unjust,” Sessions said before the vote.
Four of every five crack defendants is black. Most powder cocaine convictions involve whites.***
Tuesday’s vote follows two Supreme Court rulings Monday that upheld judges who rejected federal sentencing guidelines as too harsh and imposed more lenient prison terms, including one for crack offenses.