Nowadays, mass incarceration is one of the hot topics in the national media. Numerous articles and productions have been created to criticize the United States’ rampant sentencing of individuals to serious time, especially non-violent offenders. The latest big story surrounding mass incarceration is the announcement by the department of justice that 6,000 non-violent drug offenders will be released back into society very soon. This is the largest number of prisoners released from federal prison at one time in the history of the nation.
The 6,000 federal inmates are set to be freed between October 30th and November 2nd, following the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s reduction of of the potential punishment for future drug offenders. It also follows President Barack Obama granting clemency to 89 non-violent drug offenders. According to the Washington Post:
About two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. About one-third are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported, officials said.
The Commission estimates that an additional 8,550 prisoners could be released between November 1st of this year and November 1, 2016. It is believed that the Commission’s change in sentencing guidelines could potentially result in the early release of 46,000 of the 100,000 federal inmates serving time on drug convictions.
The Post explains the policy change:
The policy change is referred to as “Drugs Minus Two.” Federal sentencing guidelines rely on a numeric system based on different factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the type of crime, whether a gun was involved and whether the defendant was a leader in a drug group.
The sentencing panel’s change decreased the value attached to most drug-trafficking offenses by two levels, regardless of the type of drug or the amount.
An average of about two years is being shaved off eligible prisoners’ sentences under the change. Although some of the inmates who will be released have served decades, on average they will have served 8 1/2 years instead of 10 1/2 , according to a Justice Department official.