Crack cocaine offenders will receive shorter prison sentences under new federal guidelines, which replaced rules that treated a gram of crack like 100 grams of powder cocaine. The rules introduced yesterday reduce the average sentence to 8 years, 10 months, the Times reports, and may reflect an effort to restore credibility to sentencing guidelines judges often ignored.
The Reagan-era penalties draw criticism from civil rights activists, who say more than 80% of federal crack convicts are black. The federal sentencing commission argued the rules diverted resources to small-time dealers. A failed attempt to overturn the rules in 1995 resulted in nationwide prison riots. The commission will meet Nov. 13 to discuss applying the rules retroactively to current inmates.