Orreco Lyons received an early Christmas present last month when a federal judge in Tennessee reduced his crack-cocaine trafficking sentence from 71/2 years to just over six years, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Lyons, 31, is one of thousands of federal prisoners who are benefiting from a retroactive change in federal sentencing laws that aims to narrow the disparity of punishments for crack-cocaine offenders versus those sentenced for powder cocaine.
Reductions, which can range from a few months to a few years, depend on a number of factors, such as whether an inmate has a prior criminal record, whether other crimes also were committed and whether a weapon was involved. Federal Public Defender Steve Shankman of Memphis is reviewing more than 200 cases. He believes that up to 80 percent “will receive some relief.” With the retroactive change going into effect last Nov. 1, 1,480 inmates were immediately released and 2,256 others had sentence reductions but still had time to serve before being released, said Ed Ross, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.