Last year, the United States Congress voted to narrow the gap in mandatory minimum sentencing between powder cocaine and crack cocaine possession. The U.S. Sentencing Commission then made the law retroactive.
57 people convicted in the Eastern District of California will have their sentences reduced because of the decision. David Porter is the Eastern District Federal Defender.
PORTER: "That 57 number is probably low. They probably missed some people. In fact, I've been getting calls from various prisoners and prisoners' families. These people might be eligible."
African American defendants have claimed the law is racially unjust because blacks use crack and whites use powdered cocaine. The ratio of crack to cocaine that triggers the mandatory minimum sentence is still well short of one-to-one. It's 28-to-500, according to Porter.
A judge must decide a prisoner's sentence exceeded the mandatory minimum at the time of conviction in order for a sentence is to be reduced.