The proposed early release of 6,000 federal inmates is a major announcement, but still just one small step in reducing our national mass incarceration crisis. This nationwide release is scheduled between October 30–November 2. 8500 more federal inmates are scheduled for early release between November 1–November 1, 2016. During 2013, Eric Holder Jr.,the attorney general lobbied the United States Sentencing Commission to reduce the harsh sentences ( 20–50 year sentences) received by many nonviolent drug offenders. The Commission in 2014 implemented procedures to achieve that goal.
Under the federal process, inmates were granted the right to petition the court for an early release. During the past year, judges have denied some of the petitions. Federal judges were directed to focus on the safety of the public. About 70 of the petitions were granted every week. The majority of the prisoners will be released to halfway houses or confined to house arrest, before being fully released to their communities.
Over the last 30 years, the federal prison system exploded from about 30,000 prisoners to over 200,000. Almost 50% of the federal inmates were drug offenders, convicted of nonviolent offenses. Draconian drug sentencing, even for first time offenders starting in the 1980’s, was a major factor creating not only massive federal incarceration, but also our state’s mass incarceration crisis.The statistics speak for themselves. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, but only 5% of the world’s population. We have almost 2.2 million inmates imprisoned in our local, state, and federal prisons and jails.
Nationally, many of our states need to adopt the new federal changes regarding past sentencing of nonviolent offenders and start to reduce the large number of incarcerated nonviolent offenders.