This is a really positive decision that will help black communities, who have far too many people in prison because of the racially-biased sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine:
WASHINGTON – As many as 12,000 people in federal prison for crack-related crimes can get their sentences reduced as a result of a new law that brought the penalties for the drug more closely in line with those for powdered cocaine, a government commission decided Thursday.
The decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission applies to approximately 1 in 17 inmates in the federal system.
Congress last year substantially lowered the sentences for crack-related crimes such as possession and trafficking, changing a 1980s law that was criticized as racially discriminatory because it came down extra hard on a drug common in poor, black neighborhoods.
The question before the commission Thursday was whether people already locked up under the old law should benefit retroactively from the changes. The six-member commission unanimously decided in their favor.
"I believe that the commission has no choice but to make this right," said Ketanji Brown Jackson, a vice chairwoman of the commission. "I say justice demands this result."
The NAACP was among the groups praising the commission's action. About 85 percent of the inmates expected to benefit from the decision are black.
The commission's action is final unless Congress decides by the end of October to intervene, and that is considered unlikely.
Prisoners will have to petition a judge for a sentence reduction, and requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the court taking into consideration the defendant's behavior in prison and danger to society. Prosecutors will be allowed to weigh in. The earliest anyone could get out is November.