In what will be one of the largest discharges of prisoners U.S. history,
approximately 6,000 inmates are set to be released from federal prisons
starting at the end of this month. This effort is part of a plan to ease
massive prison overcrowding (the U.S. has one-quarter of the world’s
prison population) and revoke some of the harsh penalties imposed upon
non-violent drug offenses stemming from the drug war of 1980s and 1990s.
In addition, this move will reduce the massive burden currently placed
on the Justice Department’s budget, which both Democrats and Republicans
agree needs to be reduced.
In April of 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission agreed to reduce the penalties
for many non-violent drug offenses, many of which involved the use and
sale of crack cocaine. These new guidelines are now being applied retroactively
to prisoners who were serving long drug sentences. Prisoners can now request
that their sentences be re-assessed by a federal judge, who will also
consider their behavior in prison to determine whether or not they should
This move is regarded by people on both ends of the political spectrum
as a crucial step towards necessary prison reforms. Many people feel that
word of the discharge is great news for minority communities, who they
consider to have been disproportionally affected by a failed war on drugs.
The Bureau of Prisons is currently preparing for the influx of inmates
who will soon enter probation and re-entry programs.
The releases are set to take place between October 30 and November 2, 2015. Approximately one-third of the inmates set to be released are undocumented
immigrants who will be deported.
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