The Obama administration’s support for making crack cocaine sentence changes retroactive is limited, says the New York Times. Attorney General Eric Holder wants the U.S. Sentencing Commission to make an exception for inmates who had significant criminal histories or who had possessed or used a gun at the time of their drug offense. That would reduce the number of prisoners potentially eligible for a sentence reduction from 12,040 to 5,500.
The debate was prompted by last year’s Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the volume of crack cocaine necessary to result in a mandatory minimum prison term. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), opposes retroactivity, saying that Holder is “supporting the release of dangerous drug dealers.” Supporting full retroactivity, Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, argued that the commission should make its crack cocaine guidelines retroactive without any exceptions because criminal histories and any gun possession were already factored into sentences under advisory sentencing guidelines.