The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced today that it will lower the sentences calculated under the Sentencing Guidelines for possession, distribution and importation of illegal drugs. The new drug sentencing guidelineswill have far-reaching consequences, affecting thousands of cases in the federal system. It means that the Guidelines sentence — no longer mandatory on federal judges, but still very significant — will start about 20 percent lower. For low-level defendants who traffic in small quantities or avail themselves of the “safety valve” by providing information to prosecutors, it could mean the difference between prison and a sentence of home confinement or probation that is far more likely to lead to rehabilitation. In the end, this change will save the government enormous amounts of money now spent needlessly jailing low-level drug offenders. It will also prevent the heartache and injury, both psychological and physical, that almost always accompanies time in prison.