Lowering Federal Crack Cocaine Sentences Has Saved a Half Billion Dollars


After federal sentencing guideline changes on crack cocaine were made retroactive, more than 7,300 defendants got on average a 29-month reduction in their sentences, says the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, citing a new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. This average reduction lowered the average crack sentence from roughly 12.5 years to just over 10 years for the group receiving sentence reductions.

The new-average-lowered sentence for crack offenses still were significantly higher than the average sentences imposed for other federal drug crimes. It appears that the retroactive guidelines have saved almost 16,000 cumulative years of federal imprisonment, with a savings to federal taxpayers of approximately a half-billion dollars (based on a conservative estimate of a taxpayer cost of $30,000 per prisoner for each year of federal incarceration). More than 85 percent of those benefiting from reduced crack sentences have been black prisoners.

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