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Mukasey calls most crack cocaine convicts repeat criminals, wants them held

Mukasey calls most crack cocaine convicts repeat criminals, wants them held

The nation's chief law enforcement officer tried to enlist police Monday in his fight against changes in federal sentencing guidelines that would reduce prison time for 19,500 imprisoned crack cocaine offenders. He described most of them as repeat or violent criminals.
New data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission indicates that in the first wave of 1,500 crack convicts, who could be released as early as next week, one-third have little or no criminal history.
In remarks to the Fraternal Order of Police, Attorney General Michael Mukasey used a Sentencing Commission report from last year to bolster his long-standing warning against letting crack cocaine offenders out of prison early.
Mukasey said nearly 80 percent of the 19,500 crack convicts who could apply for reduction in their sentences have a criminal past.
"This tells us those who are eligible for early release are very likely to commit another crime," Mukasey said in brief remarks to the police officers, in town for several days to lobby Congress. "These offenders are often violent criminals who are likely to repeat their criminal activities."
The Sentencing Commission in December unanimously approved guideline changes to ease a disparity between harsh penalties for crack offenses compared to the relatively shorter prison time for powder cocaine violations. Four of every five crack defendants are black. Most powder cocaine convictions involve whites.
Under the guidelines, set to take effect March 3, just over 1,500 crack offenders could apply for immediate release. An estimated 19,500 would be eligible for shorter sentences over the next 30 years.
Recent data released by the Sentencing Commission contradict claims made by the attorney general. A look at the 1,508 crack offenders eligible for immediate release shows that 32 percent of them have either been convicted of one crime or committed none previously at all.
Moreover, the Sentencing Commission data for the first wave of crack releases, provided by Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, suggests that 90 percent were nonviolent and only 32 percent of their crimes involved guns or other weapons.
Scott is among more than a half-dozen lawmakers who are pushing for legislation to erase any disparity between crack and powder cocaine penalties. Democratic Sen. Joe Biden is backing similar plans in the Senate.
Mukasey has said he is willing to deal with the disparity, but only if Congress would agree to restrict the retroactive sentence reductions for first-time, nonviolent offenders only.
A hearing Tuesday in front of a House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee will look at changes to the guidelines and at possible ways to roll back penalties for crack offenders even more dramatically.


Updated : 2021-06-25 19:08 GMT+08:00