WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of federal prisoners locked up for crack cocaine offenses will be eligible for early release after a vote by a Washington commission.
Congress passed a law last year substantially lowering recommended sentences for people convicted of crack cocaine crimes, ranging from possession to trafficking. The idea was to fix a longstanding disparity in punishments for crack and powder cocaine crimes, but the new, lower recommended sentences didn't automatically apply to people already in prison. On Thursday the six-member U.S. Sentencing Commission decided that offenders locked up before the new law took effect should also benefit. Approximately 12,000 of the roughly 200,000 federal prisoners will be affected.
The commission's decision is final unless Congress intervenes by the end of October, though that is considered unlikely.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Viewers with disabilities can get assistance accessing this station's FCC Public Inspection File by contacting the station with the information listed below. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, 888-835-5322 (TTY), or firstname.lastname@example.org.