Inmates Can Seek Early Release in Crack Cases

Panel applies new guidelines retroactively
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2007 5:15 PM CST
Inmates jailed on crack offenses can seek to have their sentences reduced.   (Archive Photos)

(Newser) – Nearly 20,000 inmates now in jail on crack cocaine offenses can seek to have their sentences reduced, a federal sentencing panel ruled today. The panel decided to apply retroactively more lenient sentencing guidelines for crack convictions that went into effect last month. The move will have the "most dramatic impact on African-American families," said a member of the panel, the AP reports.

The move follows a Supreme Court decision yesterday that gave judges more leeway in handing down lighter sentences for crack convictions, a subject seen by many as a civil rights issue. Crack-users, mostly black, faced far harsher penalties than those who used powdered cocaine.