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February 24, 2008

The crack retroactivity story in my backyard

Another story about the implementation of the new federal crack guidelines can be found this morning in my home-town Columbus Dispatch.  Here are the highlights:

The number of crack-cocaine dealers and users who could be released early from federal prison has nearly doubled from initial estimates, local officials now say. 

Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission announced new, retroactive sentencing guidelines for the drug offenders that could mean early release for 224 federal inmates who were sentenced in the U.S. District Court for southern Ohio, which includes Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. Since then, a review of offenders' files pushed the number up to 439 inmates, federal public defender Steve Nolder said. And of those, 85 could be released in the next few weeks. "A lot of these people will get released pretty quickly," Nolder said....

Local U.S. attorneys are working with public defenders but aren't agreeing to release all those who are eligible, said William Hunt, first assistant U.S. attorney. "We're concerned in general about the danger to the community," he said.  The government is objecting to a release if a gun was used in the drug crime, if the offender has a lengthy criminal history or if he or she caused problems in prison, Hunt said.

On Friday, federal judges finalized new procedures so that those eligible can be freed when the sentencing changes go into effect March 3.  For example, judges determined that the cases will be reviewed in order of the inmates' release dates, said U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.  Inmates who aren't scheduled to be released for a few years will have to wait a few months to hear if they could be affected. And all inmates will be placed on supervised release, he said. "They will be monitored, drug-tested and watched for new offenses," Sargus said.

February 24, 2008 at 09:49 AM | Permalink

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