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Federal Crimes Sentencing Guidelines Changed Regarding Crack Cases

In March, federal sentencing guidelines, which help a judge determine what kind a sentence a person will get after he/she is arrested and convicted of a federal crime, were changed as they apply to crack cocaine related crimes. Prior to the change, a person arrested and convicted for possessing a small amount of crack would receive the same sentence as a person arrested and convicted for possessing a much larger amount of powder cocaine. The old sentencing guidelines were criticized since most people arrested for crack related crimes were African-American while most people arrested for cocaine related crimes were white. One of the original justifications for the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine related crimes is that government officials found that people arrested for crack related crimes were more likely to also commit a violent crime.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Preliminary Crack Cocaine Retroactivity Data Report published in April of this year, 3647 inmates convicted of a crack related crime have applied to have their sentences reduced, and 3,075 of them have been successful. The Middle District of Florida, where Jacksonville is located, had the 5th highest number of prison inmates convicted of a crack related crime apply for, and have granted, a reduction in their prison sentence. Inmates in the Middle District of Florida who had their sentences reduced did so by an average of 19.4%.