Twelve thousand inmates are eligible for release from federal prisons due to reforms of sentencing laws for crack cocaine. Cocaine is illegal in all its forms but, in federal sentencing law, there's a disparity between crack and powder. The penalty for possession or distribution of crack used to be 100 times greater than for powder. Critics called the old laws unfair, especially to African-Americans. Now, the difference is just 18 to one. Congress made the change a year ago. Now the Sentencing Commission has made the change retroactive. Michael Nachmanoff is the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia.