Posted March 6, 2008 – Many of the federal inmates charged for crack cocaine offenses – who are serving longer terms than prisoners who got busted with larger quantities of more potent powder cocaine – are starting to go home, thanks to a decision by a legal commission that advises government.
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In December, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that inmates sentenced for crack offenses could ask for lighter sentences, in essence agreeing with critics who have long argued that current harsh mandatory sentences are racially discriminatory.
Under the sentencing guidelines known as the 100-to-one rule, those caught with one gram of crack cocaine, which is more likely to be used by Blacks, faced the same sentence as those caught with 100 grams of powder cocaine, which is more likely to be found on Whites.
Several lawyers told CNN on Monday that at least a dozen convicts were scheduled to be released this week. Michael Nachmanoff, a federal public defender in Virginia , said that his office alone filed 16 motions for early release. But he noted that judges are not compelled to release inmates they deem dangerous just because they are eligible for early release under the Sentencing Commission recommendation. "Judges have a lot of discretion," he told CNN.
"If [judges] view a particular defendant a public danger there is nothing in the law that obligates them to lower that sentence. They can also impose intermediate protections as well or refer someone to a halfway house, or to home confinement."
Some 1,600 federal inmates are eligible to request a reduction in their sentences because of the commission’s decision and, according to CNN, judges could eventually reduce sentences for nearly 20,000 inmates.
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