Jean Janvier spent 17 months locked up for selling 2 grams of crack cocaine. If the Haitian-born Janvier had been caught with that much powdered cocaine, says the Boston Globe, he probably would never have been prosecuted in federal court or been incarcerated if convicted in state court. Janvier got a break when the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted in December to lighten punishments retroactively for some crack-related crimes in a move to narrow the disparity between the penalties, a disparity that has taken a particular toll on blacks, who account for most crack offenders.
A judge cut Janvier’s two-year sentence by five months, plus two months for good behavior. He was released in May and is among at least 31 inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses in Massachusetts who have been freed since March, said Miriam Conrad, a federal public defender. The sentencing commission had estimated that 25 prisoners from Massachusetts would be eligible for release by November and 91 prisoners could be freed through 2012. Nationwide, the commission has estimated that about 20,500 will eventually be freed early.