Viewpoint: Changes in cocaine sentencing

It appears thousands of federal inmates could be eligible for early release, with new cocaine sentencing guidelines, that will go into effect.

The sentence disparity between crack and powder cocaine convictions, has been discussed for years, and is seen as a form of racial discrimination.

District Attorney Greg Edwards says: "It is thought that more black people use crack because it's cheaper." "While whites more economically advantaged, use powder, that is not mixed with as many other substances, to cut it."

Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which will reduce the disparity in future prison sentencing. The federal policy setting, Sentencing Commission, decided to apply the act to inmates already serving time.

Nationally, the commission said about 1,900 prisoners could qualify for early release. The new guidelines could affect over 12,000 inmates.

For non-violent drug users, we agree this is another step in the right direction. Most need alternative sentencing, such as drug rehabilitation, and not simply a long prison sentence.