Thousands of prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine charges are looking at early release dates thanks to the new sentencing penalties for possessing or distributing crack vs. powder cocaine.
The Fair Sentencing Act, which was passed in August 2010, changes the 100-to-1 disparity between minimum sentences for crack and powder cocaine to 18-to-1.
In the old system, people who were caught with 5 grams of cocaine would receive the same sentence as those caught with 500 grams, 5 years of jail time. Now those sentences will be cut in half for convicts busted for small amounts of drugs.
Critics of the old sentencing system say it was unfair to African-Americans, who make up the majority of those convicted of possessing and distributing crack.
“This really has been one of the great stains on our federal criminal justice system for 20 years or more,” said Michael Nachmanoff, the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This disparity between the punishment for crack cocaine and powder was really unjustified.”