Alabama federal inmates who asked courts to reduce their prison sentences on crack cocaine offenses were successful two-thirds of the time, cutting an average 2½ years off their terms, reports the Birmingham News. That’s the highest success rate of the three states making up the 11th U.S. Circuit. In 2007, the U.S. Sentencing Commission made an effort to address what many in the criminal justice system call an injustice – the disparity in prison sentences between crack cocaine and powder cocaine crimes. The commission says the average sentence in crack cocaine cases runs 10 years, while the average sentence in powder cocaine cases is seven years.
To close the gap, the commission amended federal sentencing guidelines, reducing by two levels the recommended range of sentences to be considered by a judge. The panel said that 17,168 applications have been filed nationwide, and 12,119 – 70 percent – had been granted through Dec. 8. Inmates nationwide also are getting an average reduction of 2½ years. “A majority of who were eligible for relief, got it,” said Cynthia McGough, chief federal probation officer in Birmingham. “Only a few were turned down on merit where a judge reviewed the facts of the case and thought the person should not get relief. Some were released from prison because, after the reduction, they got credit for time served.”