New law offers early release for drug offenders
BATON ROUGE- Hundreds of people across the state convicted of crack possession are eligible for early release from federal prison after a new law took effect today.
The Fair Sentencing Act was passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama. It reduced the disparity in sentences for crack versus powder.
At least 131 convicted offenders are eligible for release in the Middle District of Louisiana. Those parishes included in the Middle District are: East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Livingston, Ascension, West Feliciana, East Feliciana and St. Helena.
NAACP President of the Baton Rouge Chapter, Kwame Asante believes the new law is a step in the right direction.
"For every person with a cocaine conviction, a person convicted with the same amount of crack would receive a penalty 100 times more of a sentence," Asante said.
For example, if you were caught with five grams of crack you would go to prison for five years. However, you would have to have 500 grams of cocaine to go to prison for the same amount of time under the old law.
The new law decreases the difference between crack and cocaine.
"Part of the war on drugs and crime had the greatest impact on communities of color," Asante said. "So there was that inherent prejudice with individuals involved in drugs."
Right now, the inmates eligible for possible release are being scheduled court hearings so a Federal Judge can review their cases again.