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December 11, 2007

Official USSC press release on crack retroactivity

The Sentencing Commission's website now has this official press release about today's retroactivity decision.  Here are lengthy excerpts from a thoughtful official explanation of what this means:

The United States Sentencing Commission unanimously voted today to give retroactive effect to a recent amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces penalties for crack cocaine offenses.  Retroactivity of the crack cocaine amendment will become effective on March 3, 2008.  Not every crack cocaine offender will be eligible for a lower sentence under the decision.  A Federal sentencing judge will make the final determination of whether an offender is eligible for a lower sentence and how much that sentence should be lowered.  That determination will be made only after consideration of many factors, including the Commission’s direction to consider whether lowering the offender’s sentence would pose a danger to public safety....

On November 1, 2007, after a six-month congressional review period, the Commission’s amendment to the Federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses took effect. The amendment was intended as a step toward reducing some of the unwarranted disparity currently existing between Federal crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 specifically authorized the Commission to provide for retroactive effect of amendments that result in lower penalties for classes of offenses or offenders, as this amendment could.

The Commission made its decision on retroactivity of the crack cocaine amendment after months of deliberation and years of examining cocaine sentencing issues.  It solicited public comment on the issue of retroactivity and received over 33,000 letters or written comments, almost all of which were in favor of retroactivity....

The Commission considered a number of factors during its deliberations, including the purpose for lowering crack cocaine sentences, the limit on any reduction allowed by the amendment, whether it would be difficult for the courts to apply the reduction, and whether making the amendment retroactive would raise public safety concerns or cause unwarranted sentencing disparity in the federal system. Ultimately, the Commission determined that the statutory purposes of sentencing are best served by retroactive application of the amendment.  Mindful of public safety and judicial resource concerns, the Commission today issued direction to the courts on the limited nature of this and all other retroactive amendments and on the need to consider public safety in each case. The Commission delayed the effective date of its decision on retroactivity in order to give the courts sufficient time to prepare for and process these cases.

The Commission’s actions today, as well as promulgation of the original amendment for crack cocaine offenses, are only a partial step in mitigating the unwarranted sentencing disparity that exists between Federal powder and crack cocaine defendants. The Commission has continued to call on Congress to address the issue of the 100-to-1 statutory ratio that drives Federal cocaine sentencing policy. Only Congress can provide a comprehensive solution to a fundamental unfairness in Federal sentencing policy.

December 11, 2007 at 06:35 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Can someone break this down for me. How many federal prisoners will be released and when?

Posted by: DAG | Dec 11, 2007 7:37:23 PM

DAG:
Amendments to the Crack
Sentencing Guidelines
http://www.ussc.gov/2007guid/may2007rf.pdf

Retroactivity will affect 19,500 federal prisoners, almost 2,520 of whom could be eligible for early release in the first year.(the rest release over a period of years) Federal courts will administer the application of the retroactive guideline, which is not automatic. Courts may refuse to grant sentence reductions to individuals if they believe they could pose a public safety risk.

Posted by: | Dec 11, 2007 8:47:01 PM

Indeed. Lost in almost all reporting on this is that the 19,500 will be released over the next 30 years.

Posted by: A DC Wonk | Dec 11, 2007 10:43:36 PM

It would be interesting to know how many man-years of freedom this means.

Posted by: S.cotus | Dec 12, 2007 4:07:33 PM

Hey Doug,
I noticed this over at FAMM:
Q: Who will not get the benefit of the retroactive crack amendment?
A: Those sentenced under the career offender guideline, § 4B1.1, or the armed career
offender guideline, § 4B1.4, and those serving only the five-year or 10-year mandatory minimum
(i.e., they did not benefit from the safety valve or a downward departure for substantial
assistance) cannot benefit from the amendment. Also, those with base offense levels of less than
12 or greater than 43 and those whose offense involved more than 4.5 kilograms of crack cocaine
will not be able to receive a sentence reduction.
http://famm.org/Repository/Files/FAQs%20after%20vote.pdf

This should ease some folk's mind...

Posted by: | Dec 12, 2007 4:24:28 PM

I have a question. If a person was given a 19 year sentence under the mandatory minimum scentencing laws in 1992, and they are due to be released prior to this law being in affect retroactively, is it possible for them to have their probation time of 5 years reduced? This person has served since 1992. Since this person is being released, how would they go about getting their probation dropped or reduced if it is possible?

Thank you for your time and help with this matter.

Posted by: Shelley Hanson | Dec 21, 2007 10:25:35 PM

Will this person be elgible for sentencing reduction if so by how much.
KNOWN ALIASES
IM A Student

STATE OF GEORGIA - CURRENT SENTENCES
CASE NO: 448428
OFFENSE: S/D COCAINE
CONVICTION COUNTY: TATTNALL COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 02/20/1998
SENTENCE LENGTH: LIFE

STATE OF GEORGIA - PRIOR SENTENCES
CASE NO: 261478
OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
CONVICTION COUNTY: TATTNALL COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 01/11/1995
SENTENCE LENGTH: 2 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 261478
OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
CONVICTION COUNTY: TATTNALL COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 06/22/1993
SENTENCE LENGTH: 2 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

TATTNALL COUNTY
02/20/1998
SE LIFE

STATE OF GEORGIA - PRIOR SENTENCES
CASE NO: 261478
OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
CONVICTION COUNTY: TATTNALL COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 01/11/1995
SENTENCE LENGTH: 2 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS
CASE NO: 261478
OFFENSE: POSS OF COCAINE
TATTNALL COUNTY
06/22/1993
2 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

Posted by: Nick | Jan 9, 2008 4:23:34 PM

I am trying to find information about new arguments in favor of 'career offenders and others that might not benefit from the new crack cocain ammendment. If a offender was sentenced to 14 years for crack possesion and might be labeled a career offender,though this is the first crack or cocaine offense. Any information to arguments that might be of some help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Malisa White | Mar 30, 2008 3:24:32 PM

I am trying to find information about new arguments in favor of 'career offenders and others that might not benefit from the new crack cocain ammendment. If a offender was sentenced to 14 years for crack possesion and might be labeled a career offender,though this is the first crack or cocaine offense. Any information to arguments that might be of some help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: nike air jordan spizike | Nov 29, 2010 3:44:45 AM

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