Prisoners request reduced sentences

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 31, 2008


Federal prisoners convicted of crack cocaine possession in the U.S. Southern District in Mobile and Selma have begun to ask for reduced sentences.

The docket has revealed a flurry of requests, although the new federal sentencing guidelines for the drug came down late last year, the retroactive effect didn&8217;t become effective until March 8.

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Not every crack cocaine offender will be eligible for a lower sentence.

The new U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines cuts the sentence range for first-time offenders possessing five grams or more of crack cocaine to 51 to 63 months from 63 to 78 months.

First-time offenders possessing at least 50 grams is 97 to 121 months in prison. The old prison time was 121 to 151 months.

Tommy Loftis, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney&8217;s office in Mobile, said the requests for a reduction in sentence won&8217;t clog up the court&8217;s dockets.

News about the sentences has been widely circulated among federal prisoners, Loftis said, but the legal system takes time to file legal pleadings.

It has been nearly a year since the Sentencing Commission voted to lower the recommended sentence range. Those recommendations went to Congress on May 1, 2007,

and became effective last November, 180 days after congressional review.

The Sentencing Commission waited until Dec. 11, 2007, to give retroactive effect to the sentences.

But a federal sentencing judge will make the final determination of whether an offender is eligible for a lower sentence and how much that sentence should be lowered.