Crack Cocaine Re-Sentencing

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission made the decision to allow almost 20,000 inmates nationwide to apply for a reduction in their prison terms. 

Now that ruling is filling the federal court in Midland with cases. 

There are 15 resentencings scheduled for Tuesday with people hoping for a lighter sentence.

"Crack tends to be a more significant problem in some cities than others and it has always been one of our major drug challenges here in the permian basin in both Midland and Odessa," said John Klassen, U.S. Attorney.

In the past, crack cocaine usage has held a much heavier penalty than other types of cocaine. Crack has been associated with violant behavior, and people have debated whether that is fair.

"Crack is just a form of powdered cocaine that has been rocked up or made into a hard form, and it's smoked as opposed to ingested through the nose," said Klassen.

Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to allow federal inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses to apply for reductions in their prison sentences.

Now inmates are appealing and heading back to court.

"Crack cocaine is still a more serious drug under the federal guidelines than powder, its just not as stark a discrepancy as before," Klassen said.

The biggest reduction they can receive is 2 years, but that all hinges on their criminal history. The longer a sentence convicts are serving, the more impact the reduction will have.

Another controversy surrounding crack cocaine vs. other forms of cocaine --- African Americans are more likely to use crack cocaine. An Associated Press report says 86 percent of people convicted nationally are black. That's not necessarily the case in our area.

"As a generalization, crack cocaine tends to have more of an impact on the African American community, though certainly, we've prosecuted people of all ethnic backgrounds, and I'm fairly certain that tomorrow, we have people of all ethnic backgrounds to determine whether their sentence will be reduced," Klassen said.

Attorney John Klaussen also stated that there's been some discussion among police officers in Midland and Odessa that we may see an increase in crime, because so many violators will be hitting the street at the same time.