In March of 2016, President Barack Obama granted Carol Denise Richardson a commutation of the life sentence she received in June 2006 after being convicted on two counts of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine and other drug-related charges. Her long criminal history included two previous felony drug offenses, which brought her a lifetime sentence for…

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  In a policy memo issued May 10, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told federal prosecutors he was rescinding “inconsistent” guidance his predecessor, Eric Holder Jr., issued four years earlier on what information should be included in filing drug charges. Holder’s policy, issued in August 2013, changed Department of Justice policy on how federal prosecutors analyze…

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By Christopher Zoukis Maryland incarceration rates have been steadily growing in recent years, as has the average sentence length. In response, The Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, made up of judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and lawmakers, was struck earlier this year to explore the reasons behind the booming prison population, and they are set to put forth…

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The end of October will herald new beginnings for roughly 6,000 inmates whose sentences have been reduced under changes to federal sentencing guidelines. While it might be tempting to attribute these changes to Obama’s push this last year for prison reform, these policy changes stem from wheels set into motion quite some time ago. Under…

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Just as Obama did with his landmark speech at the NAACP several weeks ago, comedian and host of Last Week TonightJon Oliver has thrust the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing into the spotlight of public discourse. In a segment both critically astute and emotionally wrenching, Oliver demonstrated that comedians are amongst those taking most seriously…

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Today — July 18, 2014 — an important vote will occur. The United States Sentencing Commission will vote on the 2 Point Reduction Law, which potentially may reduce the sentences of many federal inmates.  In late December, the president commuted the prison sentences of eight inmates. The inmates that were spared were convicted of nonviolent drug…

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By Craig Coscarelli

In a vote that may not be historic but is still very important and a sign of the times, the US Sentencing Commission earlier yesterday voted to publish proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines which include an across-the-board reduction in the sentences recommended for all drug offenses. This official press release effectively summarizes and contextualizes this proposed amendment and others that were voted upon at the USSC’s public meeting:

The United States Sentencing Commission voted January 9, 2014 to publish proposed guideline amendments, including possible reductions to the sentencing guidelines levels for federal drug trafficking offenses. Another proposed amendment addressed implementation of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

The bipartisan Commission voted to seek comment on a proposed amendment to lower by two [2] levels the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types in guideline § 2D1.1, which governs drug trafficking cases. Commission analysis indicates that such a change in the guidelines would result in a reduction of approximately 11 months for those drug trafficking offenders who would benefit, resulting in a reduction in the federal prison population of approximately 6,550 inmates by the fifth year after the change.

With this reduction, the sentencing guideline penalties for drug traffickers would remain consistent with pertinent drug trafficking statutes, including existing 5 and 10 year statutory mandatory minimum penalties, by structuring the Drug Quantity Table based on levels 24 and 30 (which correspond to a guideline range of 51 to 63 months and 97 to 121 months, respectively), rather than the existing levels of 26 and 32 (which correspond to 63 to 78 months and 121 to 151 months, respectively).

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

“Courtney called out, ‘Mom, you promised you weren’t going to leave us no more,’ ” Ms. George recalled, her eyes glistening. “I still hear that voice to this day, and he’s a grown man.”

Stephanie George, serving a life sentence without parole in Louisiana for a minor drug infraction still recalls the heartbreaking pleas from her eldest of 3 sons, Courtney, then 8, in 1997.

Ms. George is one of a half a million people in the U.S. locked away in prison for non-violent drug crimes.   

When Ms. George was sentenced 15 years ago, her children were 5, 6 and 9. They have been raised by her sister, Wendy Evil, who says it was agonizing to take the children to see their mother in prison. They would fight over who gets to sit on their mother’s lap.

A lockbox, containing a half-kilogram of cocaine seized by police in Ms. George’s attic was sufficient evidence for Judge Vinson to be convinced of a crime severe enough for Ms. George to be separated from her children for the rest of her life. 

Judge Vinson, whose reputation is anything but libertarian, defends that a formula dictated by the amount of cocaine in the lockbox and her previous criminal record was what determined Ms. George’s sentence.

Ms. George and Judge Vinson had conflicting views about the cocaine filled lockbox stashed away in Ms. George’s home. Ms. George claimed the cocaine was hidden in the attic and she was not aware it was hidden in her house. She insisted her drug dealing boyfriend placed the cocaine in the lockbox and hid it in the attic. 

Originally, Ms. George and Judge Vinson did agree on the fairness of the sentence imposed by federal court because Ms. George was a known drug dealer and the cocaine was found in her house, even though her boyfriend was responsible for putting it there. The punishment for drug possession does not entail a life sentence.

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