Crack Releases - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

03/18/08

Crack Releases

by Donna McCollum

New federal sentencing guidelines are reducing the gap between long sentences handed out for crack cocaine and shorter ones for powdered cocaine. Attorney John Heath Jr. defends alleged violators. He believes the change is a matter of fairness. " What was happening is there were people who were being charged with possession and distribution of crack cocaine which is only a small percentage of powdered cocaine."

Department of Justice prosecutors were against the recommendation. Their argument is crack cocaine is more addictive and leads to very serious crimes such as murder. But the sentencing commission made the change so they must adhere to it. Deputy Criminal Chief of the U.S. Attorney Beaumont Division, Brit Featherstone said, "Probably about 400 are going to receive some type of reduction is what we estimate right now. We have resources in place to address these motions."

The public perception could be that officials are becoming light on crime. Those prosecuting and defending say no way. Heath said, " It's not about a move to be light on crime. Cocaine laws are still very strict in the united states and people have nothing to fear about what happens to them if they're in possession of cocaine. It's a matter that at the same time of being fair and even handed when we hand out justice, " Heath said, " Featherstone said, " In the eastern district of Texas we actively have probably close to 700 filings by inmates over the past years that have convicted of distribution of crack cocaine."

There's also a racial issue. According to the Associated Press, about 85% of inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses are black men, while many powdered cocaine offenders are white.

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