Friday, July 1, 2011

New crack cocaine guidelines could reduce sentences for 12,000

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 30, 2011)―The United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously today to give retroactive effect to its proposed permanent amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines that implements the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Retroactivity of the amendment will become effective on November 1, 2011― the same day that the proposed permanent amendment would take effect― unless Congress acts to disapprove the amendment.

“In passing the Fair Sentencing Act, Congress recognized the fundamental unfairness of federal cocaine sentencing policy and ameliorated it through bipartisan legislation,” noted Commission chair, Judge Patti B. Saris. “Today’s action by the Commission ensures that the longstanding injustice recognized by Congress is remedied, and that federal crack cocaine offenders who meet certain criteria established by the Commission and considered by the courts may have their sentences reduced to a level consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.”

Not every federal crack cocaine offender in federal prison will be eligible for a lower sentence as a result of this decision. The Commission estimates, based on Fiscal Year 2010 sentencing data, that approximately 12,000 offenders may be eligible to seek a sentence reduction. The average sentence reduction for eligible offenders will be approximately 37 months, and the overall impact on the eligible offender population will occur incrementally over decades. The average sentence for these offenders, even after reduction, will remain about 10 years. The Bureau of Prisons estimates that retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 amendment could result in a savings of over $200 million within the first five years after retroactivity takes effect.

The Commission’s vote to give retroactive application to the proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines does not give retroactive effect to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Only Congress can make a statute retroactive. Many crack offenders will still be required under federal law to serve mandatory five- or 10-year sentences because of the amount of crack cocaine involved in their offenses.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Crime, National, Politics

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