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Over 3,000 sentences reduced under retroactive drug penalties amendment

[JURIST] Over 3,000 prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses have had their sentences reduced under an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [USSC materials], according to a study [PDF text] released Thursday by the US Sentencing Commission [official website]. Of the 3,647 applications for early release, 3,075 have been granted and 572 denied, but most prisoners denied turned out to not actually be eligible for sentence reductions under the amendment. AP has more.

In December, the Sentencing Commission voted unanimously [JURIST report] to give retroactive effect to an earlier amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces penalties for crack cocaine offenders [press release]. The amendment, which took effect November 1, was intended to narrow the disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine offenses. Under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 [text], the Sentencing Commission is authorized to retroactively apply amendments to the Guidelines that reduce penalties for classes of offenses or offenders. The final decision whether and how much to reduce a crack cocaine offender's sentence will rest with a federal sentencing judge, who will weigh public safety concerns. Retroactivity took effect on March 3, 2008. US Attorney General Michael Mukasey urged the Senate in February to block the amendment's retroactive effect, but his efforts were rejected [JURIST reports].

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