Commission votes to allow retroactive easing of crack cocaine sentences - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commission votes to allow retroactive easing of crack cocaine sentences

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow some 19,500 federal prison inmates, most of them black, to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences.

The commission, which sets guidelines for federal prison sentences, decided to make retroactive its recent easing of recommended sentences for crack offenses.

Roughly 3,800 inmates could be eligible for release from prison within a year after the March 3 effective date of Tuesday's decision. Federal judges will have the final say whether to reduce sentences.

The commissioners said the delay would give judges and prison officials time to deal with public safety and other issues.

U.S. District Judge William Sessions of Vermont, a commission member, said the vote on retroactivity will have the "most dramatic impact on African-American families." A failure to act "may be taken by some as particularly unjust," Sessions said before the vote.

The seven-member commission took note of objections raised by the Bush administration, but said there is no basis to treat convicts sentenced before the guidelines were changed differently from those sentenced after the change.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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