Federal law scales back crack sentences

By Victoria Frayre

It’s official. Well . . .  almost. With the passing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which ultimately admitted how big of a FAIL the “War onDrugs” has been, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has decided to retroactively apply the law to inmates convicted of federal crack related crimes prior to 2010. Unless Congress intervenes by October, retroactively applying the law could potentially reduce sentences for some 12 thousand federal inmates, 85% ofwhom are African-American.

The average reduced sentence will cut off approximately 3 years of jail time for most inmates, although a judge and lawyer, most of whom are public defenders, will bear the brunt of pushing paperwork through thecourts for prisoners seeking reductions. And what about violent crack relatedoffenders? How will releasing convicts back into society effect the safety ofthe general public? What about recidivism rates of freshly released prisoners? Will most released prisoners end up back in jail?

Although this move is an impressive statement of tacit opposition to the War on Drugs and acknowledgement that criminal justice reform is necessary, where does America go from here? In an economy that cannot even support its citizens who are capable of working, how can we expect to support ex-offenders who will be released into an unknown world with little or no job skills or applicable work experience?

It will be necessary to spend some of the said hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars saved with the eventual release of these federalprisoners on programs that help to reintegrate prisoners into society and provide them with the education and resources to insure that they can avoid going back to prison.

For more information regarding the War on Drugs please visit the American Civil Liberties Union for their blog series entitled, “End the War on Drugs”.

Victoria Frayre is serving this summer as a Friends of Justice intern and will soon graduate from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas with a degree in applied sociology. 

5 thoughts on “Federal law scales back crack sentences

  1. “. . . how can we expect to support ex-offenders who will be released into an unknown world with little or no job skills or applicable work experience?”

    Your question is right on, Victoria. I fear that in the present political climate there would be no inclination to spend the dollars saved by reduced incarceration on job development or education to provide resources. Thus the Rovian/Norquistian inclinations to reduce incarceration will simply lead to more incarceration if Rovian/Norquistian politics and economics continue to hold sway. Mass incarceration cannot be ended without increased opportunities for employment.

  2. Victoria, I’m afraid that few who passed the Fair Sentencing Act would agree with us that the War on Drugs has been a failure. The international consensus that harm reduction, treatment, and prevention are far superior to, and cheaper than, the street level policing, swat team militarizing, hyper-incarceration, and international destruction in the name of controlling sources of drugs has a long way to go before it’s heard in Washington, Ottawa, or Mexico City.
    And Charles has a good point–what is going to happen to any of the prisoners who might be released by judges and any public defenders who find (spare?) hours to take on their cases, or the many who must be released from California state prisons, or from other state prisons who must surely be looking to save at least a few dollars from this branch of government? Is it more dangerous to keep paying big government dollars for prisons while the unemployed get more numerous, or to put too many men who have spent time in prison out on the street with no prospect for the future? I’m not sure that politicians think farther ahead than the next poll.

  3. Now it comes out that the 84 instances of CA doing a chloroform search on the Internet were in reality only one search. The computer analyst made a mistake. How does one mistake 1 for 84?

  4. This comment was supposed to be under Reflections on Casey Anthony trial. Somehow got under the wrong post and attributed to the wrong commenter.
    Charles Kiker

  5. The War on Drugs is identical to the war on stills and alcohol in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s until the Government got smart, starting taxing the booze, and legalizing it. The problems haven’t totally stopped, but it’s gotten better. I have a cousin who’s a retired attorney and been practicing for over 35 years, that’s said the drugs should be taxed and legalized just like the stills and booze were back years ago, then the drive to do the drugs wouldn’t be so strong. Here again, it wouldn’t solve all the problems, but would take the “taboo” away from it all. When are they going to get it! Incarcerating all these people is not the answer either – it just makes them more criminal. Only the worst of the criminals should be incarcerated in our prisons. They need to reform 85% of our prisons into GOOD drug rehabilitation centers. The U.S. has the largest count of imprisoned people in the whole world – plus we’re a new country of barely only 200 years old. Take some notice of our neighboring countries across our world that have existed for 2000 years that don’t throw their young lives away like we do in this country; and Texas is the state that incarcerates more than any other state – it needs to do away with most of its prisons – it’s just all a HUGE money-making business.

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