Drug Offenders Could Spend Less Time Behind Bars

The justice system is tweaking it's stance on the crack cocaine issue. This past year the Shreveport area saw a stepped up effort to bust the crack cocaine organizations "Those guys out there, they know we know who they are, and trust me we're hot on their trial," says Mark Davis with the DEA.  But starting today, the time they spend behind bars could be shorter, because of new sentencing guidelines. Those carrying 5 grams or more now face a range of 51 months to 63 months, they used to face 63 to 78. And for those carrying 50 grams or more - 97 months to 121, as opposed to 121 to 151. But will it have an impact on the streets? "Not significantly, when you get down to it," says Attorney Steve Glassell, his client was busted for 24 grams. He got sixty months, and it's likely to stay at sixty. "There's a minimum mandatory sentence of sixty months under the statute, which hasn't been affected, there's not much difference there," says Glassell.

But what is still at issue is that the Sentencing Commission hasn't decided whether the change should apply to more than 19,000 people already sentenced. "I don't think you'll see 19,500 drug offenders be released from the federal prison, that's not going to happen," says Glassell. Mainly because of the minimum sentence guidelines, but there is a way for a defendant to get below that, and that's been in place for some time. "The only way to get below the minimum mandatory sentence is to cooperate," says Glassell. Ratting out the other guy appears to be more beneficial to the drug offender, than the new guidelines.