By Victoria Frayre
It’s official. Well . . . almost. With the passing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which ultimately admitted how big of a FAIL the “War onDrugs” has been, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has decided to retroactively apply the law to inmates convicted of federal crack related crimes prior to 2010. Unless Congress intervenes by October, retroactively applying the law could potentially reduce sentences for some 12 thousand federal inmates, 85% ofwhom are African-American.
The average reduced sentence will cut off approximately 3 years of jail time for most inmates, although a judge and lawyer, most of whom are public defenders, will bear the brunt of pushing paperwork through thecourts for prisoners seeking reductions. And what about violent crack relatedoffenders? How will releasing convicts back into society effect the safety ofthe general public? What about recidivism rates of freshly released prisoners? Will most released prisoners end up back in jail?
Although this move is an impressive statement of tacit opposition to the War on Drugs and acknowledgement that criminal justice reform is necessary, where does America go from here? In an economy that cannot even support its citizens who are capable of working, how can we expect to support ex-offenders who will be released into an unknown world with little or no job skills or applicable work experience?
It will be necessary to spend some of the said hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars saved with the eventual release of these federalprisoners on programs that help to reintegrate prisoners into society and provide them with the education and resources to insure that they can avoid going back to prison.
For more information regarding the War on Drugs please visit the American Civil Liberties Union for their blog series entitled, “End the War on Drugs”.
Victoria Frayre is serving this summer as a Friends of Justice intern and will soon graduate from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas with a degree in applied sociology.