Some bureaucrats on an innocuous commission have made a decision that is going to take property, safety and lives from US citizens. The results of this action are predictable and guaranteed. While the press and politicians are worried about water boarding a few American enemies, our rulers and masters are going to do a lot worse to the American people.
Cuts in prison time for crack approved
By Jerry Seper Washington Times
December 12, 2007
The U.S. Sentencing Commission yesterday unanimously voted to give retroactive status to an amendment in the federal sentencing guidelines that reduces penalties for crack-cocaine offenses.
Retroactivity of the amendment is effective March 3, but not every convicted crack-cocaine offender will be eligible for a lower sentence as a result of the decision. A federal sentencing judge will make the final determination whether a person qualifies and how much their sentence could or should be lowered.
Commission spokesman Michael Courlander said final determinations will be made only after the consideration of many factors, including the panel's direction to consider whether lowering the offender's sentence would pose a danger to public safety.
The decision comes in the wake of a 7-2 ruling Monday by the Supreme Court, which said federal judges can issue shorter prison terms than federal guidelines recommend in cocaine cases — addressing a sentencing disparity for crack- and powder-cocaine convictions widely considered to be more punitive for blacks.
The seven-member commission voted to amend federal sentencing guidelines effective Nov. 1, after a six-month congressional review period. The amendment was intended as a step toward reducing some of the unwarranted disparity between federal crack-cocaine and powder-cocaine sentences.
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 authorized the commission to provide for retroactive effect of amendments that result in lower penalties for classes of offenses or offenders, as this amendment could.
The decision could affect as many as 19,500 people, mostly blacks — including 3,800 who could become eligible for sentence reductions within the next 15 months.
Mr. Courlander said the panel made its decision on retroactivity after months of deliberation and years of examining cocaine-sentencing issues. He said it solicited public comment on the issue and received more than 33,000 letters or written comments, almost all of which were in favor of retroactivity.
Last month, the commission held a full-day hearing on the issue and heard from key stakeholders in the federal criminal justice community.
The overall effect of the amendment is anticipated to occur incrementally over 30 years, Mr. Courlander said, due to the limited nature of the amendment and because many crack-cocaine offenders will be required under federal law to serve mandatory five- or 10-year sentences because of the amount of crack involved in their offense.
Mr. Courlander said the commission considered a number of factors, including the purpose for lowering crack-cocaine sentences, the limit on any reduction allowed by the amendment, whether it would be difficult for the courts to apply the reduction, and whether making the amendment retroactive would raise public safety concerns or cause unwarranted sentencing disparity.
Ultimately, he said, the commission ruled that the statutory purpose of sentencings are best served by retroactive application of the amendment. Mindful of public safety and judicial resource concerns, he said, the commission issued direction to the courts on the limited nature of this and all other retroactive amendments and on the need to consider public safety in each case.
Over the past several months, the commission called on Congress to address the issue of the 100-to-1 statutory ratio that drove federal cocaine sentencing policy, noting that only Congress can provide a comprehensive solution to a fundamental unfairness in federal sentencing policy.
Mr. Courlander said the commission has "consistently expressed its readiness and willingness to work with Congress and others in the criminal justice community to address this very important issue."
In a press conference yesterday, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey voiced opposition to the plan of retroactively reviewing cases, saying it could result in the release of inmates to communities not prepared to deal with them.
The commission delayed the effective date on retroactivity to give the courts sufficient time to prepare for and process the cases.
The bipartisan commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The sentencing guidelines help to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.