Fair Sentencing Act Could Be Made Retroactive

By: Dia Wall Email
By: Dia Wall Email

SHERMAN, TX - "It's not that they are appealing their sentence or anything. They're just wanting lesser time for what they received."

Sergeant Rickey Wheeler with the Grayson County Sheriff's Office said offenders may want shorter sentences, but federal drug convictions are generally for large amounts of narcotics.

"Usually their guidelines, for the Feds to accept the case, you have to have approximately 50 grams of crack cocaine or more before it will go federal. It's what a distributor would have," said Wheeler.

Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Texas, Patrick Black says the impact would be widespread. "If the FSA is made retroactive, slightly over 12-thousand people would be eligible for reduced sentences. And those are people that were sentenced between October 1, 1991 and September 30, 2010," Black said.

"When they do decide to do this or if they do do it, they're definitely putting the offenders above public safety," said Wheeler.

Black though, said that the change would apply primarily to first time offenders. About 4,000 offenders would be immediately released. The rest would have their sentences reduced an average of 127 to 164 months.

"The United States Justice Department has taken the position that even if the FSA is made retroactive for offenders that it would not apply to individuals who had used weapons, committed any act of violence during their crimes or anyone that had extensive criminal histories," Black said.

Wheeler says hundreds of offenders could be released in Texas, which is a scary thought. "It is. Especially when you're talking about a mandatory release by the government."

Four of the six members on the U.S. Sentencing Commission would have to vote for the change to move forward. From there, Congress would have an October deadline to accept or reject the proposal. Black says several members of congress have already spoken out against this proposal, but if approved, the changes would take effect November 1st, 2011.


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