Advocates for reducing the disparity point to crime statistics that show crack is more of an urban and minority drug while cocaine powder is used more often by the affluent. They say harsher penalties for crack cocaine unfairly punish blacks. (CBS/AP)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A year ago, a drug dealer caught with 50 grams of crack cocaine faced a mandatory 10 years in federal prison. Today, new sentencing rules cut that sentence to as little as five years, and thousands of inmates not covered by the change are trying to get it applied to old cases.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission meets Wednesday in Washington to consider making many of the new guidelines retroactive, a step that could bring early release for as many as 1 in every 18 federal prisoners, or approximately 12,000 inmates.
The commission has already received more than 37,000 letters on the issue, most from inmates and their families and friends. Prisoners have also been writing judges and public defenders, asking if the new law might help them.
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