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

A photo apparently showing a Ferguson police officer wearing an "I am Darren Wilson" bracelet.

Ferguson Police Will Be Banned From Wearing ‘I Am Darren Wilson’ Bracelets

In a letter, the Justice Department said the accessory was “exacerbating an already tense atmosphere.” After a talk with the department, the police chief said he would institute a new policy.


Bill Gross

The ‘Bond King’ Leaves His $2 Trillion Kingdom

Bill Gross built Pacific Investment Management Co., or PIMCO, into a $2 trillion powerhouse. But this week, he abruptly left, roiling the bond-investing world.


Thailand's Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, center, at the government house in Bangkok earlier this month. Prayuth, who seized power in May, has threatened to personally take over the writing of soap operas on Thai television.

Thai Leader Threatens New Takeover: The TV Soaps

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha says he’s ordered a complete rewrite of Thailand’s daily fare of infidelity and violence, and if it’s not done right, he’s threatened to do the job himself.


A Parrot Bebop drone flies during a demonstration in May in San Francisco.

Lights, Camera, Drones: Hollywood’s Lens Gets A Little Larger

The FAA is granting six movie and TV production companies permission to use drones for filming. The move could pave the way for the unmanned aircraft systems to be used in other commercial ventures.


A screen shot provided by FlightAware shows airline traffic at 10:20 a.m. EDT Friday over the United States. A fire at a Chicago-area air traffic control facility has grounded hundreds of flights.

Fire Grounds Hundreds Of Flights At Chicago Airports

The fire in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Ill., caused numerous flight cancellations at O’Hare and Midway.


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