The Denver Post\
It's been five years since Kira Mackey was able to visit her brother without going through security screening.
Five years since she could talk to him without someone in uniform standing nearby.
But that changed Friday, when Mackey's brother, Mario, walked out of federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, as one of hundreds of people released nationwide in the past week after their federal sentences for crack-cocaine offenses were reduced.
"I'm very excited," said Kira Mackey, a native of Denver now living in Chicago. "There's not words to describe the feelings I have for him to come home."
The sentence reductions came as part of an effort to bring crack-cocaine penalties closer to those of powder cocaine. In the late 1980s, when crack was closely linked with street violence, lawmakers raised the penalties for even nonviolent crack offenses. The disparity between crack- and powder-cocaine punishments grew so wide that an offender had to possess 100 times more powder cocaine to trigger the same kind of prison sentences that crack cocaine brought.
The disparity received extra scrutiny because people sentenced to harsher crack-cocaine sentences were overwhelmingly black.
"Crack-cocaine sentences were widely understood to overstate the seriousness of crack-cocaine offenses," said Mary Price, vice president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which campaigned for the sentencing changes. ". . . There was a great deal of injustice."
Congress last year passed the Fair Sentencing Act, bringing crack sentences down to an 18-to-1 ratio with powder-cocaine sentences. The U.S. Sentencing Commission then decided to apply those new rules retroactively, making roughly 12,000 federal inmates eligible to apply for sentencing reductions when the rules went into effect Nov. 1. Those who are eligible will have an average of three years shaved off their sentences, Price said.
In Colorado, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys have so far identified close to 30 inmates whose cases originated in the state and are likely in line for sentence reductions, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Denver.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
The Denver Post\