Holder Backs Release of 5,500 Crack Offenders

Proposal would correct vast crack/cocaine sentencing gap
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2011 1:46 PM CDT
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the US Sentencing Commission, at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, June 1, 2011.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – Eric Holder today told the US Sentencing Commission that he supports a proposal to release thousands of federal prisoners convicted on crack-related offenses. Until Congress changed them last year, federal sentencing guidelines gave crack users—who are predominantly poor and black—much harsher sentences than powder cocaine users. Now, Holder wants that change applied to current prisoners, the LA Times reports.

The change could affect some 12,000 prisoners, but Holder’s advocating it be limited to the roughly 5,500 whose crimes did not involve weapons and who were not repeat offenders. “There is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders,” he argued. If the commission approves the plan, it’ll go into effect on Nov. 1, shaving an average three years off each prisoner’s time.

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