Most of more than 1,500 crack cocaine offenders immediately eligible to ask courts to be released from federal prisons under new guidelines issued by the U.S. Sentencing Commission are small-time dealers or addicts who are not career criminals and whose charges did not involve violence or firearms, says a commission staff analysis reported by the Washington Post.
About 6 percent of the inmates were supervisors or leaders of drug rings, and about 5 percent were convicted of obstructing justice, generally by trying to get rid of their drugs as they were being arrested or contacting witnesses or co-defendants before trial. About one-quarter of the inmates were given enhanced sentences because of weapons charges, though the charge can apply to defendants who were actually not carrying a gun or a knife but were with someone who was armed. About 18 percent of the offenders’ sentences were reduced because they were arrested and charged for the first time, were forced into a drug ring by someone such as a boyfriend, were unwittingly caught up in a drug operation during a police raid, or for some other reason. The largest group — 41 percent — consists of small-time crack offenders. The figures are at odds with the characterization of the inmates by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who wants Congress to pass legislation voiding the commission policy before it takes effect March 3.