Nation & World News

Drug Sentencing Guidelines Reduced For Current Prisoners

By Alan Greenblatt on July 18th, 2014

The U.S. Sentencing Commission on Friday voted unanimously to reduce terms for drug traffickers already in prison.

More than 46,000 drug offenders will be eligible for early release, unless Congress makes a move to stop the plan by Nov. 1.

On average, sentences could be reduced by more than two years.

“The magnitude of the change, both collectively and for individual offenders, is significant,” U.S. District Judge Patti Saris, who chairs the commission, said before the vote.

Such offenders won’t all be released. Their petitions will be considered individually by federal judges. None would be released before Nov. 1, 2015.

Despite the extra work, a majority of federal judges supported the change, NPR’s Carrie Johnson reported on Morning Edition.

“The driving factor for the committee’s decision was fundamental fairness,” Irene Keeley, a district judge in West Virginia, recently testified. “We do not believe that the date a sentence was imposed should dictate the length of imprisonment.”

The Justice Department has sought more leniency for some non-violent drug offenders in hopes of reducing sentencing disparities dating from the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.

The department, however, preferred a more limited approach than the Sentencing Commission has taken, arguing that only lower-level, nonviolent drug offenders without significant criminal histories should be eligible. That would have reduced the number of inmates who could petition for early release to about 20,000.

But the commission voted to make the reduced sentencing guidelines it adopted in April for most drug traffickers fully retroactive.

Although its guidelines are just that — non-binding recommendations — they hold great sway within the judiciary.

Prosecutors have expressed concern about the direction the commission is going. “The strong sentencing scheme that has been in place over the last 25 years in our country has contributed to the lowest crime rates in more than a generation,” the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys wrote in a letter to the commission.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Pope Francis opens the morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, on Saturday.

Vatican Bishops Scrap Opening To Gays, Divorced Members

Earlier this week an interim summary of the synod on family issues included conciliatory language on gays and on the taking of holy communion for divorced church members.


An artist's rendering of the flyby with Mars orbiters taking cover. Note that the image says "spacecraft not to scale."

Mars Probes Give Scientists Box Seats For Rare Comet Flyby

A “mountain-sized” comet known as Siding Spring will pass very close to the red planet, where orbiters from the U.S., Europe and India, hope to get close – but not too close — to the action.


Pro-democracy protesters set up new barricades after riot police retreated from a main road at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong Kong early Saturday.

Hong Kong Activists Clash With Police, Retake Protest Site

Pro-democracy protesters have replaced barricades in the congested Mong Kong district of the city hours after authorities dismantled the obstacles.


People stand on the island's south shore to feel the winds from approaching Hurricane Gonzalo, in Astwood Park, Bermuda on Friday. The storm has knocked out power to half of the residents of the British island territory.

Hurricane Gonzalo Hits Bermuda; Ana To Skirt Past Hawaii

In the British island territory, Gonzalo has wiped out power to roughly half of the island’s 70,000 inhabitants.


The Supreme Court early Saturday declined to block a Texas Voter ID law for the November election.

Supreme Court Lets Texas Enforce Voter ID Law For Nov. Election

With three justices dissenting, the high court’s ruling effectively blocks a lower federal court decision declaring the law restrictive and unconstitutional.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments