Federal judges have begun reducing the sentences of thousands of crack-cocaine offenders, but will they commit many new crimes, as critics assert? The Christian Science Monitor says those being released early are predominantly nonviolent and have good conduct records while in prison. Of the 19,500 drug offenders eligible over the next 30 years to apply for early release, 3,417 had their sentences reduced as of Monday. Of the 1,500 inmates eligible for immediate release, dozens so far have been let go in the past month. “There has been no release of a flood of violent criminals,” says Michael Nachmanoff, a federal public defender in Virginia.
Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University agrees there is concern about releasing a large number of crack-cocaine offenders, particularly because many of those eligible for early release now are from a generation that struggled with high levels of criminality in the ’80s and early ’90s. But they all will be released eventually, he notes. “Under the logic that we shouldn’t let them out because they may reoffend, well, that’s true today, may be true tomorrow, and a decade from now,” he says. “We have not done much in the meantime to ensure there’s positive change when people are in prison.”