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February 21, 2008

How crack retroactivity is being applied in Massachusetts

This morning's Boston Globe has this new story, headlined "US shift may free up to 30 inmates: Judges here trim prison time for crack convictions," which reports on how the new crack guidelines are being applied in Massachusetts federal courts.  Herw are snippets:

Federal judges in Massachusetts have begun ordering the release of prisoners convicted of crack cocaine offenses, responding to a government decision to retroactively reduce the harsh penalties for using and selling that particular form of the drug. Up to 30 could be affected.

Since Feb. 6, judges have reduced by 15 to 33 months the sentences of at least three Massachusetts inmates imprisoned for crack offenses.  As a result, two who have already exceeded the shortened sentences will be freed March 3, the first day prisoners are eligible for lightened punishments for crack-related crimes. A third is expected to be released in June.

In one case, US District Judge William G. Young criticized the US Sentencing Commission for failing to implement the new sentencing structure right away when it voted on Dec. 11 to make the lessened penalties retroactive for some 19,500 federal prisoners nationwide. "The failure of the Commission immediately to implement its solution to the 'fundamental unfairness' in the way crack cocaine offenders were treated under the previous version of the guidelines . . . virtually guarantees that some defendants . . . will spend more time in prison than they should have," Young wrote Tuesday.

Miriam Conrad — head of the federal public defender agency in Boston, which represented the three defendants whose releases have been ordered - said her office has come up with a list of at least 27 other inmates who may be eligible for sentence reductions. "I'm getting letters from prisoners on a daily basis," she said.... Christina DiIorio-Sterling — a spokeswoman for US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, whose office agreed to all three sentence reductions — said many factors will determine how prosecutors treat such applications. "In general, there will be some offenders for whom early release may be appropriate, given the reduction in sentencing as mandated by the changes in the guidelines," she said.

The opinion by Judge Young reference in this story can be accessed at this link.

February 21, 2008 at 08:01 AM | Permalink

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