Back in April, as explained here and here, the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to amend the federal sentencing guidelines in a way that would reduce the average sentence for most drug-trafficking offenses from 62 months to 51 months.
While that amendment is set to go effective on November 1, earlier this month, the Commission voted unanimously to apply it retroactively to people who already have been sentenced and serving time.
According to experts, the Commission’s follow-up vote simply applied the amendment’s “fairer and more rational thinking to those who had already been sentenced and have been serving draconian sentences, at great public expense, in America’s federal prison system.” Attorney General Eric Holder called it a milestone in the effort to make better use of our law-enforcement resources.
Now hundreds of people who had expected to die in prison for their drug crimes probably will not.
But no matter when they apply for resentencing, none will be released before November 1 of 2015. That will give the courts more than a year to process the first applications and decide, on a case-by-case basis, whose sentence to reduce.