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August 2, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
On July 13, the Missouri legislature lessened the state’s 75-to-1 sentence disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine to 18 to 1. This follows the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s decision to make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive. In the past, the federal sentence disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine offenders was 100 to 1, meaning it took 100 times more powdered cocaine to receive the same sentence for a crack cocaine offense. Congress reduced this disparity because many thought it to be unfair. According to the latest retroactivity report conducted by the USSC, the sentencing ratio is now 18 to 1.
According to CNN.com, those who are opposed to the old guidelines say they were unfair to African Americans. According to the USSC, just more than 85 percent of crack offenders nationwide are African American, and most cocaine users are white. The average inmate age at the time of sentencing is 31 years old.
Under previous rules, anyone convicted of a first-time trafficking offense with possession of 5 or fewer grams of crack cocaine could receive up to 20 years in jail. In contrast, a person charged with a first-time trafficking offense with a greater amount of powdered cocaine would receive a similar sentence.
According to an impact study conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, all eligible inmates will receive an average of 37 months in sentence reduction. In Missouri’s Western Federal District, which includes Boone County, 124 inmates are eligible to apply for reduced sentences.
This amendment could potentially reduce sentences of 12,040 inmates who were incarcerated for crack cocaine offenses nationwide. An estimated 1,800 inmates could request immediate release by the end of 2010. An additional 3,109 inmates were eligible for release at the end of 2011.