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Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Crack Cocaine Laws Could Affect Old Cases

Fortunately, certain laws are changing in America with regard to the punishment of drug crimes. A person being apprehended for crack cocaine a year ago received a harsher punishment than someone being arrested now. Vanishing draconian drug laws is always a good thing for our country because, let's face it, people do not belong in jail for petty non-violent drug crimes. New rules are cutting sentences in half which is good for a lot of people, but, what about the people currently locked up? Under the former regiment, people who were arrested, charged, and convicted of the same crimes still being committed today would love to see their time cut in half or be released with time served. "Please make this situation fair to all of us," prisoner Shauna Barry-Scott wrote from West Virginia to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which oversees federal sentencing guidelines. "Treat us the same."

It is almost hard to believe how many people are currently serving time that would be affected by the new rules if they go retroactive. On Wednesday, the commission will meet in Washington to consider making the new crack sentencing guidelines retroactive, a move like this could bring early release for as many as 1 in every 18 federal prisoners, or approximately 12,000 inmates, according to the AP. Now inmates and the families of inmates are writing letters to just about everyone who might have a say in the new rules, the commission has already received more than 37,000 letters and they are not the only ones, judges and public defenders are being written to as well.

"Dear Judge Blake, I am forwarding this letter to you for your assistance that concerns the new crack cocaine law that was just passed," Steven Harris wrote to a federal judge in Maryland, asking about his 10-year sentence for crack possession and possession of a firearm during the crime. "I would like to know if this law will help me."

Last August, congress and President Obama reduced the minimum penalties for crack cocaine, but, sadly the law did not apply to prisoners who were locked up before the change. Hopefully, the right thing will happen and people who deserve a second chance will gain their freedom.

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