National Journal legal affairs columnist Stuart Taylor accuses Attorney General Michael Mukasey of “counterfactual fear-mongering” by asking Congress to roll back the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s decision to ease sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine. Mukasey said that the 19,500 offenders potentially affected by the move “are some of the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system.” In an article available online only to National Journal subscribers, Taylor said the statement was “at best, a gross exaggeration glaringly unsupported by the statistics that Mukasey cited.” Mukasey did not mention that in 2005, 19 out of 20 (94.5 percent) of crack offenses involved no violence and nine out of 10 (89.6 percent) also involved no threats of violence.
Most of the petitions for sentence reductions will be spread out over more than 10 years. Most prisoners involved may not seek immediate release. Taylor notes that supporters of cocaine sentencing reform include such a widely disparate group as Bill Clinton, Republican senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Sessions, and conservative scholars, James Q. Wilson and John Dilulio Jr. Taylor says the current policy “is ruining thousands of lives that could be salvaged under a humane sentencing policy. It is decimating black communities. It is undermining confidence in the fairness of the justice system. And it is wasting tax dollars.”