- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

President Obama announced Thursday his intent to commute the federal prison sentences of eight who were convicted of crack cocaine crimes.

All of the eight – six of whom were sentenced to life — have been behind bars for at least 15 years, The New York Times reported.

Under existing drug laws, the eight never would have received such stiff sentences, The New York Times said. And most — though not all — would reportedly have been released from prison in the next 120 days.

In a prepared statement reported by the New York Times, Mr. Obama said the eight men and women he’s freeing were actually sentenced under what he termed an “unfair system” marked by too-strict sentencing guidelines. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2011, he said, rectified what he called were unfair disparities between crack and cocaine crimes — with users and sellers of the former receiving harsher penalties.

Those who objected to the now-changed mandatory sentencing guidelines that set penalties higher for crack crimes than powder cocaine violations said those standards unfairly targeted minorities and lower-income individuals, and was racist.

“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Mr. Obama’s statement read, the New York Times reported. “Instead, because of a disparity in a law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”

The Daily Beast reported that this might be just the drop in the commutation bucket.

“The bottom line … is that there are several thousand more where they came from,” said Julie Stewart, founder of the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, in The Daily Beast.



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