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.