About 20 U.S. prison inmates serving time in Minnesota could be released as a result of a federal panel's decision to retroactively apply shorter sentences for crack cocaine offenses.
An official in the U.S. attorney's office for Minnesota says a reduction in sentences for crack-related crimes took effect at the beginning of November.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission decided Tuesday that shorter sentences should also apply to those already serving prison time.
Jeff Paulsen, who heads the criminal division in the Justice Department's Minnesota office, says inmates can now ask judges to reconsider their sentences in light of the commission's decision.
"The effect in Minnesota is predicted to be that about 151 defendants previously sentenced for crack cocaine offenses will be eligible to have their sentences reduced. We expect the average reduction will be approximately two years," says Paulsen. Paulsen says crack sentences generally range from 5 years to 20 or more years, depending upon how much of the drug is found and the defendant's criminal history.