Some federal inmates who can win earlier-than-usual releases as the U.S. Sentencing Commission eases crack-cocaine penalties can benefit from the growth of prisoner re-entry programs, criminologist Beth Huebner of the University of Missouri-St. Louis tells the St. Louis Beacon. “Most of them didn’t have a violent history,” she says. “Most of them need services that we can provide better in the community. It’s difficult to provide treatment services in prison because it’s not a therapeutic environment. In the community, where people have support from their family, when they have a job and people around them that are helping, they do much better in treatment.”
Federal parole officer Mike Nicholson agrees, to some extent. “A lot of them do want to change. Being in prison has taught a lot of them the structure that they never had.” On the other hand, Nicholson says some former inmates tell him “prison teaches them to be better crooks and slicker, especially those who don’t want to change.” Some 196 inmates from St. Louis are among the 12,000 nationally who could benefit from the plan to make changes in crack-sentencing rules retroactive.