Friday, June 26, 2009

Attorney General Urges Changes In Cocaine Sentencing Guidelines

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder called for reform of the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine. In an address before a symposium sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and Harvard Law School, Holder called for a thorough review of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines because of the "unwarranted" disparities between punishments for different forms of cocaine. Holder pointed out that the disparities in the way crack cocaine and powder cocaine are treated under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines erodes public trust and confidence in the justice system. In 2007 the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to give retroactive effect to an earlier sentencing guideline amendment that reduced crack cocaine penalties. A study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission from April 2008 reports that over 3,000 defendants convicted of crack cocaine offenses have had their sentences reduced under this amendment. The final decision on whether to reduce a defendants sentence rests with the sentencing judge.

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