The Minneapolis Star Tribune takes a look at how the change in federal crack cocaine sentencing rules is playing out in its local area. Nationwide, more than 500 inmates were released on Tuesday. In Minnesota, the change in the guidelines will mean an early release for 100 to 150 inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine crimes. The change is eventually expected to benefit 12,000 U.S. inmates, reducing sentences by an average of three years.
For the past few months, U.S. probation officers, federal defenders, and federal prosecutors in Minnesota have been combing through hundreds of court files in an effort to find inmates who may be eligible for release under the new retroactive sentencing rules. The current revision can result in reductions ranging from zero to even six levels of severity. One person with a projected 2015 release date will be eligible for immediate release. Chief U.S. Probation Officer Kevin Lowry said some inmates who were released early after the first guidelines change experienced “a little bit of culture shock” at their sudden release. “Some did indicate that they had anxiety about being back in the community sooner than they expected,” he said. Probation officers are working to connect the outgoing offenders with social services to ensure they have a place to stay, as well as educational and employment opportunities.