Crack Convicts Could Get Early Release

Damian Dovarganes, File / AP Photo

It’s not exactly a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it is a get-out-of-jail-early card. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has ruled that people in jail for crack cocaine violations with now-outdated mandatory minimums will be eligible for early release. That follows a change in federal law passed in 2010 that brought sentences for crack closer to those for ordinary powder cocaine; the disparity was seen as racial, because blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be sentenced to long jail terms for crack. But the law was not retroactive, so criminals serving long sentences given before the law had no recourse. The commission’s decision could affect some 12,000 inmates. Only Congressional intervention—seen as unlikely—could reverse the decision.