In other jurisdictions, prosecutors and judges are moving more deliberately. Some federal law enforcement officials defend the approach, noting that the new rules do not automatically entitle inmates to the lower sentences, and that judges are required to consider such factors as whether they pose a danger to the community in weighing early releases.
Claire Rauscher, a federal public defender in Charlotte, did not expect much opposition when she filed papers on behalf of about three dozen crack offenders seeking early release in North Carolina. They were all near the end of their sentences, and most were already residing in halfway houses being prepared to reenter society. "They are perfect candidates" for immediate release, Rauscher said.
But prosecutors in Charlotte apparently don't think so. The government supported one of the early releases and actively opposed two other requests, including one covering the case of a 29-year-old crack dealer who under the new rules should have been released two years ago. Prosecutors have argued that the man has a continuing propensity for violence.
The U.S. attorney in Charlotte, Gretchen C.F. Shappert, has been one of the Justice Department's most ardent advocates of tough sentences for crack offenders. She was the department's representative in February on Capitol Hill, testifying against the new sentencing breaks and citing the need to keep dealers locked up.