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Today's Washington Post features an article  about the U.S. Sentencing Commission's consideration of reductions in crack-cocaine sentences for Federal inmates. The commission has already reduced crack penalties for future convicts, and is now deliberating whether to make this rule retroactive.

The Bush administration opposes the new plan, arguing that it would overburden federal courts and release potentially dangerous drug offenders.

WTF?! Fair sentences don't burden the courts, it's mandatory minimums and a system in which rural, Republican communities benefit from prison population expansion - in the U.S. census (inmates count in the county they're jailed in, not the county they come from) - by receiving greater political and economic benefits through the imprisonment of poor and overwhelmingly non-white people.

a) Generation-long mandatory minimum sentences are imposed by the Congress in the 1980s, eschewing the Judiciary's judgment.
b) U.S. prison population soars toward 2 million inmates in the 1990s.
c) The United States now imprisons more of its citizenry than any nation on earth.
d) and NOW Bush wants to ease the burden off of our courts...

Should the panel adopt the new policy, the sentences of 19,500 inmates would be reduced by an average of 27 months. About 3,800 inmates now imprisoned for possession and distribution of crack cocaine could be freed within the next year, according to the commission's analysis. The proposal would cover only inmates in federal prisons and not those in state correctional facilities, where the vast majority of people convicted of drug offenses are held.

What I really want to know is on what basis would sentences be reduced? And how many years does somebody have to serve to be considered eligible for release?

With the possession of a mere 5 grams of crack requiring a sentence of at least 5 years in Federal prison, it's possible that many people have been sentenced to decades and served nearly that much time already...

I also want to know how many of the imprisoned drug addicts have become sober during their time in jail. Did the Feds simply consolidate drug users into more cohesive clusters only to release untreated, prison-hardened addicts back into our communities?

It's a little heartening that a commission within the Federal Government is acknowledging the illegitimacy of discrepancy in crack v. cocaine sentencing guidelines, but the true goal is for them to acknowledge that America's solutions to drug addiction must be based in treating addicts rather than throwing them in jail indefinitely.


The United States Sentencing Commission

Analysis of the Impact of the Crack Cocaine Amendment

33 Consecutive Years of Prison Growth

Bureau of Justice Statistics: Prison Stats

U.S. Prison Population Tops 2 Million

The Atlantic - The Prison Industrial Complex

Drug War Facts: Mandatory Minimums

The Prison Industrial Complex 2

Critical Resistance

Originally posted to LeftistDragonfly on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 11:22 AM PST.


Should long crack-cocaine sentences be reduced retroactively?

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| 34 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  A very tiny bit of sanity. (9+ / 0-)

    You know, everything in the media and in the actions of government tell me that I'm way out on the radical fringe in my advocation of decriminalizing all drug use (and no, it's not because I want to do drugs, I'm over 10 years clean and sober and I have no desire at all to go back to that life.)  But practically everyone I talk to about it, whether liberal or conservative, more or less agrees with me.

    So either I just happen to live in a hotbed of fringe radicalism or else maybe it's not as "out there" as we're all being told.

    •  I agree (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rapala, Skaje, jrooth

      On average, most folks I talk to about it aren't opposed to decriminalizing marijuana, if not all drug use, but I think this is one of those issues where people defer to elected officials and the police for policy guidance.

      I think the implications and consequences of the drug war are unseen to average Americans, so it's a difficult issue to mobilize people around.

      God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. -Garvey

      by LeftistDragonfly on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 11:37:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What Bush really opposes (3+ / 0-)

    Is his base's reaction to hundreds of black men getting out of jail.  Where Bush's base thinks black men belong.

    Hillary plants questions. Next question.

    by The Termite on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 11:33:03 AM PST

  •  Shades of Dukakis and Willie Horton (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tony the American Mutt

    style racism.

  •  they should let the users go free and lock up the (5+ / 0-)

    drug warriors they are the real criminals they waste 70 billion a year on this bullshit

  •  Another YT video (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. -Garvey

    by LeftistDragonfly on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 12:08:14 PM PST

  •  You ask (0+ / 0-)

    "What I really want to know is on what basis would sentences be reduced? And how many years does somebody have to serve to be considered eligible for release?"

    Some answers.  The sentencing guidelines (which are keyed to the mandatory minimums) are relaxed somewhat, but the mandatory minimum sentences, such as a five-year minimum, less good time, for possession with intent to sell, of more than 5 grams of crack would not be.  If the sentencing commission makes its new guidelines retroactive, any person who got more than the applicable statutory minimum will be able to make a motion to the sentencing judge for a reduction under the guidelines.  The judge may, but need not, grant the motion.  The judge may make the motion him- or herself.

    The result.  Example, for an offender without much criminal history possessing four grams of crack the sentence would go down from a recommended sentence of 37-to-46 months to a recommended sentence of 30-to-37 months (assuming a guilty plea in both cases).  At higher levels, the potential reductions would be a bit larger.  I don't see where the average of 27 months comes from.  That might be possible at the much higher end of the spectrum, but it doesn't seem to me to be average, although federal cases in many places may focus on groups that have, over time, dealt in kilograms of crack, raising sentences substantially.

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