Sentence Cuts In Store for 19,500 Crack Convicts

Federal commission mulls rule change
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2007 12:43 PM CST
Lionel, 14, a street boy, smokes crack cocaine in Mexico City, Mexico in May 2002. Shortly after the picture was taken Mexican Federal police came and detained a number of the youth in the area.   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – The federal panel that sets sentencing guidelines for judges may decide as soon as tomorrow to cut at least 2 years off the sentences of 19,500 inmates convicted of using crack, the LA Times reports. New rules introduced this month equalize crack and powdered cocaine sentences, and tomorrow will see a vote on whether to apply them retroactively.

The move would be the most sweeping reduction in US history, freeing more than 2,500 inmates within a year. Mandatory minimum laws impose drastically lighter sentences on users of powdered cocaine than on crack users, 80% of whom are black. One federal judge who once supported the rules now calls them “fundamentally unjust.” But the Justice Department says the release of “violent crack offenders” would set back high-crime neighborhoods.