The Department of Justice will release about 6,000 federal prison inmates in one of the largest one-time releases of prisoners in U.S. history.
According to the Washington Post, the inmates will leave prison facilities and enter halfway houses as part of both an effort to reduce prison overcrowding and the retroactive application of revised sentencing guidelines.
The inmates will be released between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 as a result of changes implemented by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which voted unanimously last July to retroactively apply amended sentencing guidelines.
The amendment reduces punishments for some drug crimes that could make an estimated 46,376 offenders serving an average of 133 months eligible for release.
The bulk of inmates who would be effected by the change were jailed for powder cocaine and methamphetamine related crimes.
The amendment went into effect in November 2014, but the Commission voted not to permit the release of any prisoners until this year. The delay, according to a Commission official, gave the prisons, courts, and prosecutors time to individually review cases and prepare inmates for release.
The Commission previously estimated that some 7,953 prisoners would be eligible for immediate release on Nov. 1. According to a recent update, in 75.6% of some 17,446 cases prisoners who applied for updated sentences were granted reductions. There is no word, however, on when the remaining prisoners will be released.
The Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union praised the announcement. ”
“Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war,”Jesselyn McCurdy, Senior Legislative Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
The announcement comes amid bipartisan support for changes to the criminal justice system, including reductions in the mandatory minimum sentences that land many offenders in jail for lengthy stints. The Obama administration has also been actively pursuing reforms, including changes to drug sentencing laws.
The Department of Justice could not immediately comment on the plan.