Experts have no fear of crack ruling

Some helpful perspective on the Supreme Court’s recent drug sentencing ruling. I’m surprised that this has not gotten more attention.

When the U.S. Sentencing Commission last week reduced sentences for imprisoned crack cocaine offenders — reversing years of policy that treated crack far differently from powder cocaine — the Justice Department and police groups bitterly criticized the action, warning of a flood of criminals rushing out onto America’s streets.

The change “will make thousands of dangerous prisoners, many of them violent gang members, eligible for immediate release,” predicted acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford. “These offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system.”

But many experts say the reality is not so dramatic. Fewer than 3,000 prisoners nationwide will be immediately eligible for the relief. All have already served considerable time. Each prisoner will have to petition the court for his freedom — and the Justice Department can oppose those petitions. Few offenders with violent histories are likely to be released.